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Elections Watch Committee Urges Removal of Voter Registration Attestation in New Position Paper on Election Bill

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Ansumana Camara, Chairperson Election Watch Committee

By Landing Ceesay

The Elections Watch Committee (EWC) of The Gambia has recommended the removal of a clause from the country’s electoral laws that permits citizens to use attestation for voter registration.

In their recently released position paper on the 2022 Election Bill, the Elections Watch Committee, a coalition of seven organizations dedicated to promoting election integrity and transparency, highlighted the need for electoral reform. They emphasized the importance of accountability and impartiality in the electoral process through their monitoring efforts.

During a press conference, Mr. Ansumana Camara, Chairperson of the Elections Watch Committee, urged for the elimination of the clause allowing attestation for voter registration from the Election Bill. He also presented data concerning the use of attestation during the previous electoral cycle in The Gambia.

“EWC is of the view that every Gambian should have a birth certificate, Identification Card or Passport. This, the government and Gambia Immigration Department should work to facilitate people across the country to have access to. The issuance of attestation by Alkalo or Seyfo can be abused, as evident in the 2021 general voter registration exercise, where EWC Observers reported that 385 of 472 reports indicated that some or many applicants utilized an attestation form of identification. 11 of 472 reports indicated that all applicants used this method to register. Our recommendation is that we want the clause talking about attestation to be deleted,” Mr. Camara told the Journalists.

The Gambia’s electoral laws stipulate that individuals disqualified from voter registration include those currently serving a prison sentence. Mr. Camara has argued that this exclusion violates prisoners’ human rights, urging the Independent Electoral Commission to enable their participation in the electoral process.

Prisoners, already restricted in their freedoms, should not be further deprived of their civic duty to vote. EWC advocates for prisoners’ voting rights, emphasizing that the right to vote is fundamental and constitutionally protected worldwide, stemming from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The IEC should facilitate prisoners’ registration and access to polling stations accordingly.

Article 211 of it sets out that, ‘everyone has the right to take part in the government of his (her) country, directly or through freely chosen representatives’, that, ‘the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government: this will, shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures’. We recommend the removal of this Clause in the bill,” Mr. Camara told the Journalists.

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