BY ALEX DADAMU
THE Electoral Reform Strategic Framework 2019-2023 that the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission has adopted in August 2019 reveals the conviction of what needs to be done within the election cycle to correct shortcomings in the election process, the Electoral Act, and introducing new ways of carrying out voter registration, polling time, as well as better ways of increasing efficiency in the way elections are conducted.
Chairman of the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission (SIEC) and Speaker of the National Parliament, Patterson Oti in introducing the Electoral Reform Strategic Framework 2019-2023 (ERSF 2019-2023, revealed that the contents of the ERSF were based entirely on lessons learned from the observation of the election processes as well as from the outcomes of lessons-learned workshops of the 2019 General Election conducted in Gizo, Honiara, and Auki with Election Managers, Returning Officers and AROs throughout the country. He said the ERSF covers wide-ranging issues that the Commission need to successfully address.
The Electoral Commission Chairperson highlighted 5 main areas that he considered to be the game-changers in the way the 2023 General Election will be conducted if successfully implemented.
“The priorities of the ERSF can also be regarded as ways the Commission will be addressing the main findings of the ANU observer team as well as other international observers.”
The following priorities are:
1st Priority-Combining the conduct of national and provincial elections on the same day.
The conduct of both the national and provincial elections on the polling day of the 2023 General Election will be the first since the Solomon Islands became independent in 1978. The proposed change will release public funds usually allocated for election purposes at the provincial and local government level because, with the change, we will be conducting only one election instead of 11 elections (general election, 9 provincial elections, and one HCC election).
2nd Priority-Changing the voters’ registration phase into every day and annual continuing process
Changing voter registration into a continuous process will have huge positive impacts on the election. It will solve many of the problems the Commission face during the election year.
3rd Priority-Establishment of SIEC’s Electoral Offices in Provincial Headquarters
The Commission is intending to establish its offices in all provincial Headquarters. These offices will enable the Commission to conduct voter registration continuously, conduct pre-registration of 17-years old by visiting secondary schools in the provinces, to more effectively clean out dead people on the Electoral Roll of a constituency, conduct voter awareness and/or vote education programs in the provinces and constituency level, and to help prepare the constituency in the province for a by-election (national or provincial)
4th Priority-Re-defining “Ordinarily resident”
The Commission has already commenced work in tightening the definition of ‘ordinarily resident’. This is a very important step in resolving the problem of cross-border registration.
5th Priority-Introduce out-of-constituency voting and cancel out-of-constituency registration
Voters can vote for the constituencies they are registered at from designated out-of-constituency polling stations in where they live, either at the provinces or at Honiara city.
Mr. Oti in the meantime urged everyone that it is important to note that the substance of the commission’s priorities for the next three years is an affirmation of the agreement with the ANU Report’s main findings.
“Many of the ANU Report’s main findings and recommendations, if not all, will be fed into the development of detail Implementation Plans for the delivery of the Electoral Reform Strategic Framework during this election cycle.”