12 November, 2009
No Anguillian, or belonger of Anguilla, is qualified to be put on the voters' list unless he or she is resident in Anguilla. Just because I am an Anguillian, or a belonger of
Anguilla, does not qualify me to be placed on the voters' list. I must also be a resident of Anguilla.
Residence is not easy or automatic. Until I looked up the law, even I was mistaken in my assumptions about what constitutes residence for the purpose of registration on the list of voters.
There are three pieces of law that mention the residence qualification, (i) The Constitution, (ii) The Elections Act; and (iii) The Elections Regulations. The first and most important is the Constitution.
Section 43 of the 1982
Anguilla Constitution sets out the residence qualification in these words:
Qualification of voters
43. (1) Subject to the next following subsection a person shall be qualified to be registered as a voter in an electoral district if he is of the age of eighteen years and upwards and—
(a) is a
British Dependent Territories citizen born in Anguilla, and is domiciled there at the qualifying date; or
(b) (i) is a person who belongs to Anguilla who has resided in Anguilla for a period of not less than twelve months immediately before the qualifying date, and is domiciled there at that date, and is the lawful spouse, widow or widower, or the son or daughter or the spouse of such son or daughter of a person who was born in Anguilla; or
(ii) is a person who belongs to Anguilla who is domiciled in
Anguilla and has resided there for a period of at least five years immediately before the qualifying date; and
(c) is at the qualifying date resident in the electoral district in which he claims to be registered.
According to section 43, the first group of qualified voters are those who are (i) a British Dependent Territories Citizens, (ii) born in
Anguilla, (iii) domiciled there at the qualifying date; and (iv) resident in the electoral district in which they claim to be registered at the qualifying date. There is no minimum time that a born Anguillian must have resided in Anguilla before the qualifying date. But, as we shall see, there is a minimum time for belongers.
The second group of voters consists of persons who are (i) the foreign-born spouses or children of born Anguillians; who on the qualifying date (ii) have become belongers; and (iii) have resided in Anguilla for a period of not less than 12 months before the qualifying date; and (iv) are resident in the electoral district in which they claim to be registered. So, the
US or Canadian or Dominican spouse or child of a born Anguillian, who has his or her belonger certificate, and has had a home in Anguilla for at least one year before the qualifying date, is entitled to be registered and to vote.
The third group of qualified voters consists of persons who on the qualifying date (i) are belongers of Anguilla; and (ii) have resided in
Anguilla for at least 5 years; and (iii) are resident in the electoral districts in which they claim to be registered. So, the US or Canadian or Dominican citizen who has no blood connection with Anguilla, but who has his or her belonger certificate, and has had a home in Anguilla for at least 5 years before the qualifying date, is entitled to be registered and to vote.
We can say that there are three categories of persons in
Anguilla who are qualified to be registered to vote. They are (i) born Anguillians; (ii) the foreign-born spouses and children of born Anguillians who have resided in Anguilla for not less than 12 months; and (iii) belongers who have resided in Anguilla for not less than 5 years.
For all practical purposes, the only common qualification for all three categories of Anguillian voters is that they must be 18 years of age or over, and must reside in
Anguilla and, in particular, must reside in their electoral district.
The question of residence is thus of paramount importance. The problem for the layman is that the words “resident” or “residence” are nowhere defined in the Constitution. Nor are they defined in any other applicable statute.
We have to turn to the common law. And, this is where we all get a wake-up call. There is a lot of law and learning on what 'residence' means for the purposes of elections. We have to go back into the old common law of
, before the Representation of the People Act 1948, to learn what 'residence' means at common law. At common law a person's residence is by implication that person's home, where he or she has a sleeping apartment, or shares one. Merely sleeping on the premises is not conclusive of residence. What is required is a considerable degree of permanence. A guest in someone's home, or a trespasser, or a person unlawfully in occupation like a squatter, is not resident for the purpose of registration as a voter. There are cases that have decided those points. The law is that you must be able to prove that the claimed residence is your home. England
A person may, as a question of fact, have only one residence or he or she may have more than one residence. I may own a home in
and another home in North Hill. If I occasionally stay in one, and occasionally in the other, I am in fact resident in both places. I may, for example, have my wife and children in one home, and my mistress and her children in another home. I can choose which of the two I prefer to be registered in for the purpose of elections. Just owning a house in two constituencies is not sufficient. If I live in North Hill and own a house in East End in which I never live, and in which I have no intention of ever living, does not qualify my East End house as my residence. If I have my home in Island Harbour Island Harbour, but I built a house in West End, and I have leased it out, I am resident only in . I am not resident in Island Harbour West End for the purposes of elections.
A person may, at common law, be resident at an address even though he is temporarily absent from it. An Anguillian living and working in the United States, but who maintains a home in Anguilla, and who intends to return to Anguilla to live in it before he dies, is said to be 'constructively' resident in Anguilla. Such a person is entitled to be on the voters' list and to return to
Anguilla to vote when elections are called. That privilege does not extend to the Anguillian who sold or leased out his home and emigrated to the and is living there. Such an Anguillian is disqualified from registration as a voter in USA Anguilla.
The bottom line is that an Anguillian who has resided in
New York for years is not automatically entitled to vote in Anguilla. He has to be able to prove residence in Anguilla according to common law.