We Must Entrench an Electoral Boundaries Commission in the Constitution. The difficult decisions surrounding an election are not all made by voters. One of these decisions is how to divide the island into voting districts or constituencies. Each constituency sends one representative to the House of Assembly. Each representative should, ideally, represent an approximately equal number of voters. This ensures balanced representation of all the people in the law-making body.
Constituency boundary lines in Commonwealth Caribbean countries are normally determined by a special, independent body. It is usually called the Electoral Boundaries Commission. Its powers usually, but not always, emerge from the country’s political constitution.
Laws as to elections
46. Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the Legislature may provide for the election of members of the Assembly, including (without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing power) the following matters, that is to say—
(a) the qualifications and disqualifications of voters;
(b) the registration of voters;
(c) the ascertainment of the qualification of voters and of candidates for election;
(d) the division of
(e) the holding of elections; . . .
This section of the Constitution permits the Assembly at paragraph (d) to make a law providing for the division of
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The implications are clear. We are still using the original seven constituencies that existed at the time of the
It would take a change of the law to have the boundaries re-drawn. The politicians have fought hard to win their constituencies. They are not going to voluntarily or willingly submit themselves to taking a chance with altering their boundaries. They need a special push.
In most countries, Electoral Boundaries Commissions are established by law to ensure a balance is maintained. The boundaries are re-drawn from time to time, usually after a census, to more fairly reflect the voting population. The best way to provide for a Commission for
During the Constitutional and Electoral Reform Commission’s work in early 2006, the people of
77. Boundaries Commission. One consequence of the recommendation for 9 constituencies is that the constituency boundaries will have to be redrawn. This must be overseen by an independent Boundaries Commission, which does not presently exist. The majority of persons making representations to the Commission have urged that there be 9 more or less equally sized constituencies. This is a matter for the Boundaries Commission to decide based on its analysis of the problem and the solution. The Commission recommends that the Constitution should be amended to provide for an independent Boundaries Commission whose duties will be established by a law.
It is not difficult to put this recommendation into a new Constitution. The
Electoral District Boundary Commission
85. (1) An Electoral District Boundary Commission (in this section referred to as a “Commission”) shall be appointed from time to time at such time as the Governor, after consultation with the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition, may determine; but a Commission shall be appointed not later than four years after the last Commission submitted its report under section 60.
(2) A Commission shall consist of –
(a) a Chairman, being a person who holds or has held high judicial office or high legal office, appointed by the Governor, acting in his or her discretion.
(b) a member appointed by the Governor, acting in accordance with the advice of the Premier; and
(c) a member appointed by the Governor, acting in accordance with the advice of the Leader of the Opposition.
(3) A person shall not be qualified to be appointed as a member of the Commission if he or she is a member of the House of Assembly or a public officer other than the holder of a judicial office.
(4) The Chairman or other member of a Commission shall vacate his or her office –
(a) on the day following the submission of the report of the Commission under section 60;
(b) if any circumstances arise that, if he or she were not a member, would cause him or her to be disqualified for appointment as such; or
(c) if the Governor, acting in his or her discretion, directs that he or she shall be removed from office for inability to discharge the functions of his or her office (whether arising from infirmity of body or mind or from any other cause) or for misbehaviour.
Will the Chief Minister’s drafting committee, which is supposed to be putting the recommendations of the Commission into a draft Constitution for circulation to the public include such a provision? The people are waiting with increasingly mounting anxiety. I receive several emails a week on the subject.
Personally, I am not worried. Anguillians want this reform. The British want it. Members of the House of Assembly have nothing to fear from it.
It is almost guaranteed to happen.