The executive director of the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) said there are enough members in the Diaspora for them to push any candidates to victory in a town hall meeting on the constitutional referendum at the Embassy in Washington D.C. on Tuesday.
“In 2016, President Jovenel Moïse was elected as president with 500,000 votes,” Max Delices said. “There’s enough people in the Diaspora for them to elect everyone they need in Haiti.”
In 2018, there were about 1.2 million members of the Haitian Diaspora in the United States alone. Delices said Haiti has a 17 to 21 percent voter participation rate when the U.S. had a voter turnout rate of 66 percent.
The purpose of the town hall meeting was to answer questions members of the Diaspora have on how to go about voting in the constitutional referendum and upcoming elections. Delices also revealed that different scenarios are being evaluated to assist members of the Diaspora who live too far from a Haitian Embassy or consul to go vote.
About 400 people watched the two-hour meeting live. To date the recording has been viewed about 27,000 times. About 20 attendees and panelists were at the Embassy due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Jean Junior Morrisset, a Diaspora community leader based in Maryland, moderated the meeting. The government officials who were present were Ambassador Bocchit Edmond, Mathias Pierre, the minister in charge of electoral matters, members of the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) and members of the Independent Advisory Committee of the draft of the constitution.
The constitutional referendum is scheduled for June 27. Members of the Diaspora have to make a national Identification Card to participate in the referendum and upcoming elections by visiting a Haitian consul or embassy in or near their states.
President Jovenel Moïse has been advocating for a new constitution because he said the current 1987 constitution is inapplicable. It’s the first time members of the diaspora will have a say in the constitution.
“We want to say that the Diaspora is part of it [the constitution] because they’re Haitian,” Edmond said. “They’re supposed to be part of it, in everything happening in Haiti. We don’t want division. We want to stay unified.”
To make an electoral ID, members of the Diaspora need either their baptism or birth certificate or an archive extract. Haitians living abroad don’t need to go to Haiti to obtain those documents, they’re available at Haitian consuls, Pierre said.
Another issue members of the Diaspora face is that the consul or embassy is too far from their homes. Delices said the CEP is already working on a solution to this problem.
“In some cases, you’d have to be present but we’re looking at a lot of scenarios. I’m sure the diasporas will be the first to know.” Delices said. “We created platforms, very technological means to identify where the people are.”
Over in Haiti, one of the issues that will prevent residents from voting is the ongoing violence, experts have said. Members of the Diaspora asked the CEP how they plan to make sure it’s safe to participate in the upcoming elections and constitutional referendum.
“There’s a unit for electoral security that was created. A general police inspector is its chief,” Pierre said. “The U.N. is going to assist them and the army will join them to assure that the elections are safe before voting takes place, the day voting takes place and after voting.”
If Haitian residents and Haitians abroad vote in favor of the new constitution, the Diaspora will obtain many more privileges including becoming deputies.
“When you’re fighting you got to fight all the way to the end until the last card so you can say ‘Yes, I won,’” said Guylande Mesadieu, the CEP’s president. “Fight, vote so you can have what you’re hoping for, so your children, your children’s children won’t suffer what you suffered as a diaspora.”
This article was modified from the original version.