Don’t break election rules

SASCHA WIL­SON, Trinidad and Tobago Guardian

As elec­tors head to the var­i­ous polling sta­tions to­day to cast their votes, the Elec­tions and Bound­aries Com­mis­sion (EBC) is warn­ing po­lit­i­cal par­ties, can­di­dates, elec­tors, and all oth­er de­mo­c­ra­t­ic stake­hold­ers to obey the law or face the con­se­quences. Is­su­ing the warn­ing on its web­site on Sun­day, the EBC al­so itemised the elec­tion of­fences one could run afoul of to­day dur­ing the Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Elec­tion.

“Ig­no­rance of the law is not an ex­cuse,” ad­vised the EBC. Can­vass­ing, loud mu­sic, no con­gre­ga­tion and sale of al­co­hol are among the of­fences for which per­sons could be ar­rest­ed for to­day and once found guilty could face a fine or im­pris­on­ment.

Some 1,079,969 peo­ple are el­i­gi­ble to vote at the 2,107 polling sta­tions with­in the 1,530 polling di­vi­sions through­out the coun­try.

How­ev­er, ac­cord­ing to the EBC’s da­ta from the last Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Elec­tion in 2016, on­ly 362,254 elec­tors had vot­ed, which ac­count­ed for 34.34 per­cent of the elec­torate pop­u­la­tion.

Three hun­dred and thir­ty-nine can­di­dates from a to­tal of sev­en po­lit­i­cal par­ties are con­test­ing this elec­tion. How­ev­er, on­ly the Peo­ple’s Na­tion­al Move­ment and the Unit­ed Na­tion­al Con­gress have put for­ward a full slate of can­di­dates. The EBC re­mind­ed the pub­lic that acts of bribery, treat­ing or un­due in­flu­ence are il­le­gal. They en­cour­aged per­sons to re­port to the po­lice any­one found en­gag­ing in those il­le­gal tac­tics. Bribery is when can­di­dates or their sup­port­ers give mon­ey, valu­able con­sid­er­a­tion or of­fer gifts to per­suade an elec­tor to vote a par­tic­u­lar way. Treat­ing is when can­di­dates or their sup­port­ers di­rect­ly or in­di­rect­ly give or pro­vide food, drink or en­ter­tain­ment in or­der to in­flu­ence vot­ers. Un­due in­flu­ence is when can­di­dates or their sup­port­ers use in­tim­i­da­tion of any kind to in­flu­ence an elec­tor’s vote. A per­son found guilty of any of those of­fens­es is li­able on sum­ma­ry con­vic­tion to a fine of $15,000 and to im­pris­on­ment for six months or on con­vic­tion on in­dict­ment to a fine of $30,000 and to 12 months im­pris­on­ment.

Sev­en polling day of­fens­es un­der the Rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the Peo­ple Act, Chap 2:01

1) Any­one who plays mu­sic or holds a pro­ces­sion with­in a polling sta­tion be­fore two hours af­ter the clos­ing poll clos­es is li­able on sum­ma­ry con­vic­tion to a $7,500 fine or six months im­pris­on­ment.

2) No per­son shall fur­nish or sup­ply any pub­lic ad­dress ap­pa­ra­tus, loud­speak­er, bunting, en­sign, ban­ner, stan­dards or set of colours or any flag to any per­son, nor shall those things be used or worn by any­one or put on any mo­tor ve­hi­cle to be used as po­lit­i­cal pro­pa­gan­da. This of­fence car­ries on sum­ma­ry con­vic­tion on sum­ma­ry con­vic­tion to a $7,500 fine or six months im­pris­on­ment.

3) Oth­er than elec­tors wait­ing to vote no per­sons shall as­sem­ble or con­gre­gate at a polling sta­tion or with­in 100 yards there­of. This of­fence car­ries on sum­ma­ry con­vic­tion on sum­ma­ry con­vic­tion to a $7,500 fine or six months im­pris­on­ment.

4) Any­one who seeks to in­flu­ence any elec­tor to vote or re­frain from vot­ing for any po­lit­i­cal par­ty or as­cer­tain for whom any elec­tor is sup­port­ing with­in the polling sta­tion or a pub­lic place or road with­in 100 yards of a polling sta­tion is li­able to a fine of $7,500 or three months im­pris­on­ment.

5) No al­co­hol shall be sold or of­fered or ex­posed for sale be­tween the open­ing and the clos­ing of the poll.

6) A per­son who votes know­ing that he is not en­ti­tled to vote; or votes more than once has com­mit­ted an il­le­gal prac­tice and is li­able to a fine of $15,000 or six months in prison.

7) A per­son who is guilty of im­per­son­ation if he votes as some oth­er per­son or aids and abets in the com­mis­sion of this of­fence. Up­on con­vic­tion on in­dict­ment for this of­fence, a per­son is li­able to a fine of $30,000 and to five years im­pris­on­ment.