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LALIT criticizes new bureaucratic measures for voter identification


Following Mr. Irfan Raman’s public statement to the effect that some identification document will be necessary for people voting in the next general elections, LALIT issues the following communique:

LALIT wishes to express support for the democratic tradition in Mauritius whereby a person who says they are someone is accepted as being that person, for purposes, inter alia, of voting in elections. A human being has the right to say who they are and be believed.

Until now, the only condition for one’s Constitutional right to vote is that one’s name be on the electoral register. The control that has, until today, been placed on people during voting is a social one. Political parties are each allowed to have up to two members in each polling room, usually a classroom where voting is done, in order to check on people not impersonating others for the purpose of voting twice. We do not, in any case, believe there is any widespread impersonation of people dead or alive, in the country or not.

However, the insistence on a “pièce d’identité” for electors risks denying the fundamental right to vote to many people. Anyone who has no paper or plastic identifying document will risk effectively losing their right to vote. It is a very technocratic and bureaucratic way in which to resolve the problem, if one exists at all. The dangers in this bureaucratization are also rife. A domineering husband, a “head of the patriarchal clan”, a domineering money lender who is also a party agent, can all, in the future, withhold peoples’ identity documents, and this could be organized on a big scale. Once identity documents replace human social control, their production on an industrial scale, however supposedly complex, becomes a dangerous possibility, especially for future more autocratic regimes.

So the risks far outweigh the advantages of this proposed Regulation.

In order to give additional social control to the political parties present, each voting “school” could also have “roving postmen/women” who could move from counting room to counting room, checking on identities known to them, and thus acting as a further deterrent.

However, the best deterrent would probably be a publicity campaign making fun of people who think they are worth two votes, while all the rest of us are worth only one.

We suspect that the proposed Regulations are just the thin end of a wedge, that will see the increasing use of surveillance and repression to counter what are problems, if any, calling for mild social control.

Lindsey Collen

15 October, 2014