Eligible Voters to Register with their Birth Certificate Names


By Pita Suguturaga and Tomasi Tuitoga


Introduction


As Fiji prepares for the 2022 General Elections, all Fijians are urged to comply with the Electoral (Registration of Voters) (Amendment) (No.2) Act 2021 (“Amendment Act”) that was passed on 22 September 2021 and came into force on 6 October 2021.


Section 3 of the Amendment Act places a strict requirement that all eligible voters applying for the first time to be registered as a voter must provide their full names as they appear on their Birth Certificate. The Birth Certificate must also be provided as part of the supporting documents for their voter registration.


Registered voters who currently use their aliases on their Voter ID will need to re-register with their Birth Certificate names. The Amendment Act affects married women who use their married name on their Voter ID as well as individuals whose names appear in a different order on their Birth Certificate and Voter ID.



What will this mean to the Voters?


If a registered voter prefers using the alias in their current Voter ID, he or she must apply to change their name to their alias at the Births, Deaths, Marriages Registry. They will not be required to submit a Deed Poll.

Any registered voter who prefers to go by their alias on their Voter ID but fails to legally change their name to their alias will be de-registered. The Elections Office will reject an application for voter registration if it is not in compliance with the legislated requirements.[1]


What triggered the Amendment?


The recent Judgement of the Court of Disputed Returns in Nawaikula v Supervisor of Elections [2021] FJHC 232 (“Judgement”) delivered on 17 August 2021. The Supervisor of Elections had removed the name of Mr. Niko Nawaikula, a Member of Parliament, from the Register of Voters (“Register”).


Mr. Nawaikula was using his alias on his Voter ID. The removal of Mr. Nawaikula’s name from the Register lost him his seat in Parliament. Mr. Nawaikula challenged the Supervisor of Elections on the ground that there was nothing in the legislation that required voters to register with their birth certificate name.


The Court of Disputed Returns, in its Judgement held that:

If the legislature wanted only the birth certificate name to be used, it would have at least required that a birth certificate be provided as the identity card and stated full name to mean the name in the birth certificate or as in the birth certificate. In absence of such restriction, this Court cannot read in the legislation to mean that full name is confined to the name in the birth certificate.[2]


The Court of Disputed Returns ordered that Mr Naiwaikula’s name be re-entered into the register of voters and that he be reinstated as a Member of Parliament. The legislature then proceeded to reform the Electoral Legislation, thus the Amendment Act was passed and enacted.


Conclusion


The green colored voters cards issued from 2012 to 2016 have been phased out and replaced by a blue colored voters cards which contain the polling venue for a registered voter. Eligible Fijian citizens who do not hold a blue colored voter’s card will not be eligible to vote.

As Fiji heads into an election year next year, many Fijians will be caught out by these changes and in order to vote, your Voter ID card must match your legal name on your Birth Certificate.


For further information, please contact Feizal Haniff and Tomasi Tuitoga.

[1] Section 7, Electoral (Registration of Voters) Act 2012 [2] Judgement- Nawaikula v Supervisor of Elections [2021] FJHC 232



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