Early voting starts with issues at Central Basseterre polling station

The first issue surrounding the sole polling station for constituency #2, Central Basseterre, was that it was moved from its original location of the Anglican Church Hall to the Youth and Community Center, both on Victoria Road.

According Sylvester Charles, the returning officer for the poll station, it was necessary to change locations because the original location, the Anglican Church Hall (Old Girls’ School), was in use.

“We had some difficulty in accessing the building, because there was a prior engagement planned there for today. The archdeacon indicated that it was booked for a meeting, and so we could not have access to it. So we had to find an alternate venue for the proceedings,” Charles explained to MiyVue.com, as he indicated that awareness of the Hall’s unavailability came on Friday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Jonel Powell, candidate of the People’s Action Movement for constituency #2 has raised concerns about the process and problems affecting the early voting in his constituency #2.

Powell explained the problems he encountered earlier today, as he sought to obtain pertinent information about the procedures governing the early vote. He believes that the process seemed not to be planned properly.

“This entire process has been rushed. It is confusion, and there are no proper procedures and guidelines. At about 8: 15 this morning, I went down to the Electoral Office. I attempted repeatedly, in front of police officers at one point and the residing officer of my constituency, to speak with the supervisor of elections. He refused to speak with me, as a candidate in this election. He ignored me,” said Powell, who explained also that he learned of the polling station change from the returning officer, and indicated that not received official notification of the original polling station on Victoria Road.

The Central Basseterre candidate also revealed that there are problems with the list. He said that minutes to nine this morning, he was “presented with a list”.

“That’s the list that is posted on the door. There is no copy available for the agent, my agent or the Labour Party’s agent. Up to now, we have not received a list for ourselves. In my estimation, the list does not seem official. We are accustomed to receiving lists that have an official title on it. This does not have it. It is a photocopy and part of the heading is cut off. The names are not in any sort of order. They are not in alphabetical order or numerical order. The list is in two parts. Some persons are on one list, and some on the other,” Powell told MiyVue.com. According to the returning officer, there are about 200 persons registered to vote early at that station.

However, Powell was even more concerned about the manner in which his name was presented on the ballot, indicating it may cause confusion among voters.

“The other problem I have now is that my name is incorrect on the ballot. My name is Jonel. My last name is Powell. On the ballot, they have my last name as ‘Herbert-Powell’. That can confuse voters, and I have a serious issue with that,” Powell stated.

Furthermore, Powell chided electoral administrators for the lack of regulations and official information governing the early vote.

“There are no regulations in place. I asked for the regulations guiding this entire process. The residing officer was unable to get me that document, or give me any information in relation to that. Up to this point, I’m uncertain as to who would be transferring the ballots at the end of the poll, whose custody would they be in, where they would be located for the next two days,” Powell said.

But when told that some information pertaining to such matters were on news media, he indicated that no official communication was received by him or his party.

“I have had no official information, and, as far as I’m aware, the party has not received any official information,” he stated.

With seemingly no solution in sight, Powell said he was bringing the problematic issues to the attention of the public.

“I am raising these issues with anybody I can. As I said, the supervisor of elections refuses to even acknowledge me when I go to speak to him. I don’t know if they expect that we must wait until after the elections to bring an election petition, but I just think that this whole thing is unacceptable,” he opined.

According to Marvin Edwards, observing for the opposition Central Basseterre candidate, security was important concern.

“You would recognize that there is no police officer in the polling station, and that is a requirement. You would recognize that the outdoor agents of the Labour Party are on the verandah. The law stipulates you are supposed to be 100 yards away from the polling station. Our agents were located away from it, but if they are going to break the law, we have no choice but to follow them, until somebody makes a decision,” said Edwards.

At least one OECS observer mission member paid a brief visit to the polling station.


[Editor’s note: Starting 1st March 2015, MiyVue.com would become MyVueNews.com]

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