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.