January 22, 2010
Electoral Office receives OAS recommendations

The Organization of American States (OAS) Observer Mission to the November 25, 2009, referendum has recommended that the legality and appropriateness of using public monies to fund one side of a campaign should be established.

This recommendation was one of four contained in the report of the Chief of Mission of the OAS Observer Mission to the Referendum on Constitutional Reform.{{more}}

While the report emphasized there were relatively few areas in which the Mission felt that the referendum in St Vincent and the Grenadines could have been improved, it said “the lessons learned in St. Vincent and the Grenadines could be applicable to other countries in the region,” especially since constitutional reform is being debated throughout the Caribbean.

The report, which was presented to the OAS Permanent Council on January 13, 2010, said the mission consisted of 14 observers from 11 different countries.

They described the environment in which citizens voted as “orderly and peaceful”, and said “On the whole, poll workers and party agents worked together harmoniously, although the Mission did receive a few complaints and allegations concerning agents’ access to polling sites.”

“There were, in a handful of instances, infringements of the 100-yard line, within which campaign materials, such as posters, should not be displayed. There were also a few instances of party agents complaining that they were excluded from polling stations or too many agents of the other party were present at a polling site,” the report noted.

The first of the four recommendations was that the issue of campaign financing should be resolved. The report mentions in particular the question of whether it was appropriate for the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to utilize $4 million EC dollars of state resources for its “Yes” campaign, while the “No” campaign remained privately funded.

The report also recommends that the Electoral Office should redouble its efforts to encourage citizens to apply for and collect the new registration cards before the next elections. They also advised political parties to “remain diligent in checking the voters’ list and utilizing the claims-and-objections period to identify and correct any anomalies.”

While the mission acknowledged that poll workers were “generally well trained”, greater “uniformity and standardization of procedures across polling sites would be desirable.”

Saying that the mission observed some variation in instructing voters, they noted that variation did not, in the view of the Mission, materially affect the outcome at any polling site, but the electoral authorities should seek greater consistency in its training of polling officials. “It is the opinion of the Mission that when determining the validity of a marked ballot, the intention of the voter should prevail above any other consideration,” the report said.

The report also commented on the cramped conditions of some polling stations and recommended greater attention to the signage, location and layout of polling sites “for improved access by the physically challenged and elderly and ease of use by all voters.”

Recognition was given to the work of the Supervisor of Elections, Sylvia Findlay Scrubb, and of the Electoral Office, “which effectively ran the referendum,” and Minister René Baptiste.

The Observer Mission to St. Vincent and the Grenadines was financially supported by the Governments of Canada and the United States of America.