November 27, 2009

Little observation of election laws

The fact that election laws were to be followed by voters in this week’s referendum seemed to have fallen on deaf ears.{{more}}

In some areas, mainly in rural St. Vincent, acts that would have attracted immediate police attention during a routine general election were easily observed within the vicinity of polling stations and officials.

The campaigning, which had taken place in the weeks and months before Wednesday’s vote, continued on the day of voting, with some persons making last ditch efforts to convert friends, families and neighbors to cast their vote in either the Yes or No category.

Some were not trying to convince anyone, just trying to make their positions known.

This, according to laws governing the elections of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, is illegal.

In other areas, campaign billboards within the 100-yard radius of the polling stations that were to be covered were left unobstructed for voters to see.

Some of these were eventually covered during the course of balloting.

The sale and use of alcohol during polling hours, which was done blatantly in some areas, is also illegal, but was done blatantly.

Persons were seen consuming alcohol before and after casting their ballots, while some were clearly intoxicated by the time Searchlight arrived at the various polling stations.

Despite this, there were no reports of violence, or the disruption of polling in any areas.

Also according to the laws of elections, persons were prohibited from congregating during polling hours; they were expected to cast their votes and depart the area of polling stations.

This was not followed by many voters who, after casting their ballots, remained on the streets, apparently discussing the probable outcome of the historic referendum.

Just over one month ago Supervisor of Elections Sylvia Findlay-Scrubb indicated that her office would be using the referendum to make sure things were in place for general elections, which are due next year.

Speaking briefly to Searchlight on Referendum Day, Findlay-Scrubb indicated that it was still too early to say where the electoral process was “ok”.

She, however, indicated that incidents which occurred outside of the polling stations were the responsibility of others.

In the case of exposed billboards in the vicinity of polling stations, Findlay-Scrubb said it was the responsibility of the committees who erected these posters to take them down or cover them.

She said that in the case of the use of alcohol and the congregating of persons near polling stations, it was the duty of the police to ensure these things did not occur. (JJ)