PFP Proposal to Remove Curtain from Voting Booth Approved by CoM

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Gumbs pleased with progress, awaits next steps

PHILIPSBURG – Party for Progress member of Parliament Melissa Gumbs expressed satisfaction for the update received from Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs in Parliament’s Central Committee meeting of August 17th. The agenda point for the meeting was an update on electoral reform progress from Government.

In September 2022, Gumbs had submitted a letter outlining her reasons for requesting that the Prime Minister amend the Kiesbesluit (Election Decree) so that the dark curtain that appears on the voting booth would be removed. 

“In my initial letter, I explained that the curtain does not actually serve a purpose, as privacy is already guaranteed by the walls surrounding the sides and front of the voter,” Gumbs stated. “Within the Kingdom, it’s only St. Maarten and Aruba that are still holding onto the curtain. Not even little Saba, where everyone literally knows everyone, believes that a curtain adds to privacy.”

Gumbs’ concern for the presence of the curtain stemmed from the phenomenon of vote buying, which she stated technology had made that much easier to accomplish. In an Ad-hoc Committee for Electoral Reform meeting in Parliament, she explained having directly interacted with an individual who was “shopping around” his vote. In her statement in Parliament, Gumbs highlighted the fact that when her candidate denied the young man the $300 he requested, he walked towards a vehicle with representatives from another political party. Following that, he entered the polling station and upon exiting with his cellphone in hand, he hurried over to the vehicle, showed them his phone and then rushed off in the opposite direction, stuffing something into his pocket.

“The curtain’s presence is what made this possible,” Gumbs stated. “And it is an example of contradicting realities, because each polling station has signs saying that cellphones are not permitted in the station. But how is that enforced, if there’s a dark curtain making it possible to actually use your phone, out of sight from the persons meant to enforce the rules?”

The Prime Minister indicated in December 2022 that she could see logic in the proposal, and it received support in the same Electoral Reform Committee meeting from opposition and coalition MPs alike. In 2023, Gumbs and PFP took their initiative a step further, engaging a legislative lawyer to assist with drafting the national decree containing general measures (LB-HAM) that would be needed to make the necessary changes. 

“Legislative writing capacity is a Kingdom-wide issue,” Gumbs continued. “With that in mind, we wanted to assist as much as possible with the process. After that, it was a matter of waiting to see where the Council of Ministers’ minds were at. I’m pleased that the proposal was approved in COM and now look forward to it continuing the legal process.”

As the Prime Minister explained, the decree now goes to His Excellency Governor Baly and will then be sent to the Council of Advice. Gumbs urged all members of the public to continue to follow its progress.