The Electoral and Boundaries Commission (EBC) is stoutly defending the integrity of the electoral process, while dismissing allegations of discrepancies on the preliminary voters’ list of just over 256,990 people.
In a clear-the-air news conference at the EBC’s Warrens, St Michael office today, Chairman John Haynes said he was “greatly disturbed” at “misinformation” and “mischief” being circulated in relation to the registration of voters.
The Barbados Labour Party (BLP) had complained last week that the preliminary list released by the EBC on May 2 was riddled with errors.
BLP Mobilization Manager Lucille Moe told reporters that most of the concerns revolved around people who had either changed their addresses in the past, or had requested changes to their addresses.
Moe claimed that there were cases where people who had changed their addresses prior to the 2013 election appeared at their old addresses on this year’s preliminary list.
There were also charges that hundreds of people who registered this year were missing from the list.
However, Haynes today expressed surprise at the claims, pointing out that the EBC had met with the media and all political parties to examine “all of what can be the possible issues pertaining to elections”, including voters’ registration, transfers and claims, to ensure they were aware of the process.
“So we are very amazed now by the kind of propaganda that is being put out there to discredit anything that the while lauding the work of the EBC’s management and staff and the 30 officers who carry out investigation under “some very trying circumstances”.
The EBC boss told reporters the electoral department remained “objective at all times” to ensure that the country maintained “the reputation for fair and transparent elections at all times”, adding that St Kitts was contemplating copying the Barbados model.
In fact, he said the country continued to be held in high esteem in the Caribbean as well as internationally.
“We intend to maintain our integrity throughout the world because this commission and this country has never had to ask for any observer missions to come in and see how we conduct our elections. So we have to make sure that we maintain that and we cannot have any agency or any person pull down the good name of the process or anything that is happening in this country,” Haynes insisted.
Meantime, Chief Electoral Officer Angela Taylor explained that the first list was printed on April 30 – just over a month after the cut-off date of March 26 – and would therefore comprise all new registration and amendments to registrations up to January 31.
“The legislation provides for a 19-day special electoral registration period after the preliminary list has been printed. So that notwithstanding that the last date for registration was May 7, we in the office would continue to update the register until May 16 and on May 18 we will publish and print the register for elections,” Taylor said.
The supervisor of elections further explained that registration applications or changes made between March 26 and May 7 were still being investigated, but she gave the assurance that they would be on the list to be published on May 18, which would also reflect “all the newly qualified registrants who will reach their 18th birthday on May 24, election day”.
Taylor said those who updated their addresses after the last election, when replacing identification cards, would have the new addresses reflected on the preliminary list.
She also pointed out that residents who were renting could also pose a challenge, explaining that they sometimes changed addresses without advising the EBC.
“I want to say that this department is not removing persons from the register. No one will be disenfranchised. All electors who are registered will be reflected on the register of electors. When an address is not confirmed . . . if the registrant is not found at the new address that is submitted, they remain on the register at the old address. No one is removed form the register of electors except their death has been confirmed by the registrar,” the chief electoral officer explained.
She also advised the electorate against listening to canvassers, whom she said were not always familiar with boundary lines for constituency or polling districts.