Two days after the Electoral and Boundaries Commission (EBC) stoutly defended the integrity of the electoral process and openly dismissed allegations of discrepancies on the preliminary voters’ list of just over 256,990 people, Barbados TODAY investigations have revealed over 500 irregularities, the majority of which affect four constituencies in St Michael.
These are St Michael South, currently held by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, St Michael North East which is held by Barbados Labour Party (BLP) leader Mia Mottley, St Michael West Central in which the Democratic Labour Party’s (DLP’s) James Paul is the incumbent and the City of Bridgetown where the BLP’s Jeffrey Bostic is seeking his second straight term.
However, errors were also identified in 27 of the 30 constituencies across the island.
In all 592 cases found, voters had the same address and the same house number but ended up in different constituencies.
For instance, in one of 50 discrepancies which have been linked to the Prime Minister’s constituency, four members of the Haynes family all reside at #15, Old Quarry Road, Bayville, St Michael. However, according to the preliminary voters’ list released on April 30, three members of that household are down to cast their ballots at polling station BA3 in the City of Bridgetown and one in St Michael South at polling station UA1.
The same situation has occurred at #22 Rochampton Road, Grazettes, St Michael with the Maynard family, with two members of that household slated to vote at polling station KB1 in St Michael North East, where 40 discrepancies were spotted, and the other at DB1 in St Michael North where the BLP’s Ronald Toppin is the incumbent.
With that said, the majority of the discrepancies have been identified in St Michael West Central (77) where Paul defeated the BLP’s Ian Gooding Edghill by193 votes in the last election, and The City (69) where Bostic scrapped home just ahead of Patrick Todd by 124 votes. Over 30 errors were also identified in St James Central which the BLP’s Kerry Symmonds won by 68 votes.
When presented with the data this afternoon, Chief Electoral Officer Angela Taylor admitted that there were problems which the Commission was seeking to resolve by the time the final voters’ list is released just ahead of the May 24 poll.
“In terms of the challenges, we have identified more than 60 to 75 per cent of them to our updating unit. So a good 75 per cent of these things have already been picked up and are in the updating unit to be completed,” she told Barbados TODAY, while revealing that one candidate had submitted a list for investigation this week.
“Some are West Central, some are North East and some are St Michael North, so the list of the corrections have come in and it is in the updating unit for those to be updated and the other registering officers have some to investigate, but they are all going to be right in the register of electors that is going to be published on May 18,” she said.
Asked to explain the errors, the elections supervisor said: “It is a bit of us, and a bit of the information given by the persons when registering.
“We had a few of these cases last election that were rectified and we have a situation again where we have to tidy them up,” she added.
However, in defence of the integrity of the voters’ list, she was adamant that the incidence of error was miniscule – less than one per cent on a list that contained 257,995 registrants – which she felt was “not worth frightening the entire Barbados public over”.
Taylor was also quick to assure that there was nothing political about the situation.
“We are working with a computer, we are working with humans. I don’t want to talk too much, but we got this,” Taylor said, even though a spokesman for one of the minority political parties who first alerted Barbados TODAY to the errors said he was concerned that such discrepancies, if not rectified in time, could skew the eventual election result, particularly in those marginal areas where incumbents had barely scrapped home last election with a razor thin advantage.
He was also concerned that the EBC was attempting to sweep the issue under the carpet after its chairman, John Haynes, in a clear-the-air news conference at the EBC’s Warrens, St Michael office on Wednesday, said he was “greatly disturbed” at “misinformation” and “mischief” being circulated in relation to the registration of voters.
Earlier, the BLP had complained that
the preliminary list released by the EBC on May 2 was riddled with errors.
BLP Mobilization Manager Lucille Moe told reporters last week 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 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 [EBC does],” he said, 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.