The Office of the Electoral Commissioner issued a statement today, May 20, clarifying the situation to dispel doubts and defend the integrity of the institution.
Here is the full statement:
During his press conference on May 17, 2022, the leader of the opposition made erroneous, insulting and malicious statements on a number of subjects that were subsequently picked up by the media. Regrettably, these were repeated in the media without any verification and without asking for the version of the electoral commissioner’s office.
The Electoral Commissioner’s Office deems it important to provide journalists and, through them, the general public, with clarifications in order to dispel doubts and defend the integrity of the institution and the officials who support it in its various missions in the service of our democracy.
Our current laws
It is a fact that the bulk of electoral law – primarily the Constitution and the
“Representation of the People Act (RoPA) – that governs the conduct of elections, voter registration and the right to vote, dates from 1958. The election commissioner and officials are required to act under the authority of this law in its current form and to enforce its various provisions as written.
As with any law that is over 60 years old, the RoPA can certainly evolve, particularly by taking advantage of recent technical and technological advances. In fact, over the years, the Office of the Electoral Commissioner has been actively involved in various initiatives to modernize our electoral laws.
However, any legislative or constitutional change is the sole responsibility of our National Assembly. Without legislative changes, we are therefore bound to act within the strict confines of this law and our Constitution.
Voting by Commonwealth citizen aliens
The present state of our law allows Commonwealth citizens, having resided for a prescribed period in Mauritius, to be included in our electoral register and thus to vote in parliamentary elections.
As long as the Constitution prescribes this, the Electoral Commissioner’s office is obliged to register them and allow them to vote, if they so choose.
The opposition leader, however, is basing himself on urban rumors and myths to claim that a significant number of foreign workers voted in the last general elections and thus distorted the wishes of the Mauritian electorate. This is false and inaccurate.
In order to clear up any misunderstanding and to silence these malicious allegations, it is necessary to clarify the following elements:
– Only a person who is on the electoral register can vote;
– On average, 1,000 foreign citizens of the Commonwealth are on our voter register each year. Their number was 838 in 2019 and 1,211 in 2021 ;
– As such, and in our entire Commonwealth, there are therefore only a few hundred Commonwealth citizens who can vote by presenting identification at an election;
– None of the election petitions before the Supreme Court invoke this ground to request a recount of votes or the invalidation of an election. Furthermore, there is absolutely no evidence to date that Commonwealth citizens who were not on the voter registration list were able to vote in the 2019 elections. This is despite the fact that 8,391 polling agents from different political parties helped verify the identity of voters in the 1,982 polling stations in Mauritius, Rodrigues and Agalega during the 2019 legislative elections.
The voter registration process
In front of the press, the leader of the opposition let himself go to make serious insinuations about the work of civil servants. He ridiculed the work of the “canvasser” and their team leaders – “principal” and “chief canvassers” – allegedly based on the feedback of one person out of the 2,578 civil servants currently working in the field.
Each year, the door-to-door exercise takes place over a period of about 2 weeks. As such, the duration of the 2022 exercise has not been significantly reduced compared to previous years. The duration has even been slightly extended, contrary to what the leader of the opposition says.
In his comments, the opposition leader caricatures and denigrates the work of thousands of civil servants, arguing that they only visit households a second time when they are unable to talk to a family member on their first visit. He goes on to suggest that, in an effort to save money, the “canvassers” allegedly leave a notice in the local shop. This assertion undermines the rigor of these hundreds of civil servants who pass in some cases 5 to 6 times, and in vain, sometimes in inclement weather, in front of the same closed door; or who are verbally assaulted or bitten by pets in the exercise of their duties.
Year after year, it is the hard work of thousands of civil servants that ensures that more than 900,000 Mauritians are on our voters’ list.
The storage of the electoral register data
The leader of the opposition has made serious and inaccurate statements about the storage of data from the electoral register. The facts, verified and verifiable, are as follows:
– Only the officials of the electoral commissioner’s office are authorized to update the voter register following the door-to-door exercise and the registration of voters in the registration centers;
– Each of them has their own login and password that allows them to trace, if necessary, which changes were made by which officer of the electoral commissioner’s office and when;
– The servers housing the voter database are physically located at the electoral commissioner’s office and nowhere else. Only the officers of that office have access to it;
– Each year, a copy of the finalized voter register is given to the Government Online Centre (GOC), which hosts the application that allows voters to check via the Internet whether they are on the voter register or to ascertain the polling center where they should vote. It is for this sole purpose that a copy of the finalized electoral register – the same version that political parties receive – is sent to the GOC.
The Opposition Leader is also misleading in claiming that an alleged “Social Media Analytics Cloud” software was acquired and used by this office. The indisputable facts are as follows: No such software has been acquired, nor is it used by the Office of the Election Commissioner or the Electoral Supervisory Commission (ESC) in connection with the voter database.
By referring to controversies coming from abroad, related more to Facebook than to the voter database itself, the leader of the opposition indulges in amalgams and confusions that may lead Mauritians to believe in the existence of dubious practices that would allow the electoral register to be modified for malicious purposes, when this is not the case.
We conclude this note by calling once again on politicians to respect the work done by thousands of civil servants and not to insult them through their comments with the sole aim of gaining political capital.
We also call on the media to check and double check their information before publishing or broadcasting it. For this sum of insinuations – as malicious as they are unfounded – can irreparably damage the integrity of and the confidence placed in the office of the electoral commissioner, which remains an essential link in our democratic process.
Office of the Electoral Commissioner
May 20, 2022