Democratic Labour Party (DLP) candidate George Connolly today levelled serious allegations of voter padding in his St James Central constituency, while claiming that there were over 300 “transient voters” – including two priests and their sons who have not been resident in the constituency for nearly a decade – on the register.
However, both the Electoral and Boundaries Commission (EBC) and Connolly’s main opponent, the Barbados Labour Party’s Kerrie Symmonds, immediately denied the allegations, even though Connolly was adamant that a problem exists – one that if not resolved before May 24, could affect the final result in the constituency, which was won by Symmonds by a mere 68 votes ahead of the ruling party’s George Hudson back in 2013.
“This is bordering on criminal,” he told Barbados TODAY in an interview today, while complaining bitterly that “there is a systemic movement of voters into the constituency during the election cycle.
“In 2013, it was 609 persons and in this cycle we found 323 of what we call them transient voters, people who move into the constituency during the election process and have addresses elsewhere.”
To compound this matter, the DLP candidate said another attempt was made last night “to move 60 more persons over, but the electoral office rejected them and informed us of the rejection”.
In the case of the priests, whose names have been deliberately withheld by Barbados TODAY, Connolly said “they needed to be moved into I believe St James North where they belong” while pointing out that members of the family, who are aligned to the Opposition BLP, have not been resident in St James Central since 2009. He also revealed that the two sons were first-time voters and that the father was playing an intimate role in Symmond’s campaign.
“The electoral office was the one who brought it to our attention . . . so this isn’t my team going out there, this is I’m seeing names on a register and when we check it against the national register, we see that they are actually living in Westport, Porters, St James,” he told Barbados TODAY while admitting that it was a tricky situation since some voters had multiple addresses “and if you can’t determine that they live elsewhere, they slip through the cracks”.
When contacted this evening, Chief Electoral Officer Angela Taylor said she could find no evidence in her department to substantiate Connolly’s claims even though the DLP candidate said members of his campaign team had formally filed an objection with the EBC yesterday.
Symmonds also told Barbados TODAY he was totally unaware of the charges made by Connolly and also denied knowledge of attempts by some 300 persons who live outside the constituency to be registered in St James Central ahead of the May 24 poll.
“I think that Mr Connolly is searching in the dark in an act of absolute and abject desperation to find excuses for the inevitable lambasting that is certainly coming his way as a result of his incompetence in cleaning the electoral list and as a result of his laziness and failure to canvass the constituency,” Symmonds told Barbados TODAY.
However, he cautioned that “no amount of red herrings can change the fact that there are electoral regulations which are still in place in Barbados and if he is alleging that there are 300 ‘transient voters’ then he should be able to name them, identify them, and have the Electoral and Boundaries Commission of Barbados deal with the matter”.
In the meantime, Connolly is also alleging “mass vote buying” in the constituency, in particular in The Welches area, close to the Welches Primary School and in the area directly behind Jordan’s Supermarket on Jordan’s Road.
“Those are the two areas where we are seeing wholesale distribution of cash to young men proportedly to support candidates,” he said.
And while he was unable to present proof he said he was in the process of getting affidavits signed by constituents who observed the payment of voters in ‘hundred dollar bills”. Connolly also said he was prepared to have persons posted with cameras in the areas where the alleged vote buying was occurring.
“Persons in my team actually chased one individual down Paynes Bay and across the beach trying to apprehend them [but] the person ran from them so this is a baptism of fire for me,” Connolly said.
However, these concerns apart, Connolly remains confident that he can defeat Symmonds in St James Central and has been challenging constituents to show “one thing that the incumbent has done to move the community forward in 15 years”.
“Everyone struggles. No one can say anything. However, I can be told several things that Goerge Hutson did,” he said.
In response to the “mass vote buying” claims by his political opponent, Symmonds said: “My answer to that is that he [Connolly] should try and spend less money”.
He also accused the DLP first-timer of seeking public sympathy before his “electoral flogging” takes place.