I want to get this right
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November 20, 2009

I want to get this right

Supervisor of Elections Sylvia Findlay Scrubb says she feels under pressure as the November 25th referendum draws closer.{{more}}

But the pressure does not come from critics or persons scrutinizing the operations of the Electoral Office, of which she is in charge.

It comes from within.

“I feel a certain level of pressure which I think is normal,” Scrubb said in an interview with Searchlight on Wednesday.

“The pressure is an inbuilt one where I feel pressured intrinsically. I know that I have to get it right, and know that I cannot make mistakes. I think most of it has come from my own knowledge that I have a serious responsibility.”

That responsibility, Scrubb said, is guaranteeing free and fair elections.

Scrubb said that this pressure is shared with her staff, both in the electoral office and those who will be present in the field, but she has confidence that they, too, are ready for the task ahead since they are dedicated to the work that has to be done.

To the advantage of the process, Scrubb indicated that a majority of the field team (poll clerks, election, returning and presiding officers) have worked in at least one election in the past.

And since the referendum is fundamentally the same, added to the training they have received over the past weeks, she believes that they will carry out their duties diligently.

With five days to go before the historic vote on the proposed constitution takes place, Scrubb indicated that everything is on track from the office’s perspective, barring, of course, any unforeseen circumstances.

According to Scrubb, the importance of the exercise bears heavily on all concerned and it is important for everyone to ensure that it is done properly.

“If a country is going to embark on its first referendum, I will think that as a nation we would want to get it right so that we don’t have to ask ourselves ‘what if?’ at the end of it all,” she noted.

“But more specifically, in terms of the Electoral Office and for me personally, I think having to supervise the first referendum in the country I would want to make sure that I have done the job that I was called upon to do.”

As for referendum day, Scrubb said that it important that voters pay critical attention to the voting process, in order to ensure that their vote is valid.

A form, which will be posted at each polling station, is expected to offer seven directions for the electorate. Scrubb believes that it is important that attention be paid to points two, three and four.

Item two reads that “the voter should see that the ballot paper before it is handed to him is stamped with the official mark and bears the initial of the presiding officer.”

In item three: ‘The voter shall go into one of the compartments and with the black lead pencil provided in the compartment place a cross (X) within the space on the ballot paper containing the response the voter wishes to give to the question on the ballot paper.

“We need to remind persons that they need to use the pencil that is located in the booth,’ the Supervisor asserted. “We have a few people who pull out their pens and mark – that will be a rejected ballot.”

Item four states: “The Voter shall then fold the paper so that the initials of the presiding officer, the official mark, and the numbers on the counterfoil can be seen, and the counterfoil detached without opening the ballot paper. He shall then return the ballot so folded to the presiding officer who shall in full view of those present, including the voter remove the counterfoil, and place the ballot paper in the ballot box. The voter shall then forthwith quit the polling station.”

Scrubb indicated that before the ballot can be placed in the box, the voter MUST place his finger in the election ink provided; if he or she refuses to do so the ballot is spoilt.

Items five to seven deal with other ways in which a ballot can be considered spoilt, void or invalid.

Scrubb believes that other rules governing the day of an election are expected to be followed, in reference to the sale of alcohol, campaigning and the wearing of party colours.

“What I would like to think is that we would discourage people from going to the polling stations wearing anything that was used in the campaign.”

“Certainly we would prefer persons not to wear t-shirts or anything like that with Yes or No or carrying anything that has those words on them. I think they would be contravening that part of the law that talks of having symbols.”

Not one to shy away from criticism, Scrubb said that her office has used any criticism leveled against her office as a means of self assessment.

“I know that regardless of what happens, the office and I as Supervisor of Elections will not be challenged on the fact that we did not conduct free and fair elections.”

“There may be other things where an officer did not follow the letter of the law, but we have attempted to do all that is possible within our constraints.” (JJ)