A very smooth exercise with nothing of significance to complain about.
That is how Deputy Chairman of the Electoral and Boundaries Commission (EBC) Hal Gollop, QC described the voting process after St George North residents cast their ballots at 25 polling stations across the constituency on Wednesday.
“[It went] very, very smoothly from what I have seen. I visited most of the polling stations. That is not surprising. We have always had a good electoral system; it has always been well administered. The organisation, in spite of the COVID presence seems to have gone very well without many hindrances,” Gollop told Barbados TODAY soon after polls closed at 6 p.m.
A total of 9,897 people were registered to vote in the by-election.
Hundreds of constituents braved mixed weather conditions – intermittent light to moderate showers and overcast skies in the early part of the day, followed by bright sunshine later on – to exercise their franchise.
After 12 hours of voting, officials reported that it was an incident-free and controversy-free process, with the exception of some people having to adjust to voting under COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
Returning Officer Winston Estwick said there had been a steady stream of voters in the morning and then again in the evening, but constituents trickled in during the middle of the day.
“All in all…we had some little technical difficulties. It is a new dispensation with the COVID protocols. So, we had to learn…we had to try to explain to some people why it is being done. But all in all I think we did pretty well today,” Estwick told Barbados TODAY minutes before the end of voting.
Six candidates contested the by-election: Toni Moore of the ruling Barbados Labour Party (BLP), Floyd Reifer of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP), Grenville Phillips ll from Solutions Barbados (SB), David Walrond of the People’s Party for Democracy and Development (PdP), the United Progressive Party’s (UPP) Ambrose Grosvenor and Alex Mitchell of the Bajan Free Party (BFP).
They all expressed confidence of victory in the contest that was triggered by the resignation of long-standing MP for the area, Gline Clarke, who is taking up a diplomatic posting in Canada.
At the 13 polling stations visited by one of the Barbados TODAY teams, the atmosphere was quiet, with relatively long lines and a steady flow of voters witnessed at St George Primary School during the first two hours of polls opening.
Voters of various ages, races and physical capabilities turned out to place their ‘X’ next to their preferred candidates.
Michael Clarke, a retired security supervisor, did not let his incapacitated condition keep him away from St George Primary School.
Against the backdrop of a heavy police presence, and with assistance from electoral workers, he emerged from the polling booth with a walker and told Barbados TODAY he counted it a privilege to be able to vote, considering that in some countries it is not easy to do so.
Less than a mile away at the Valley Resource Centre, 95-year-old Elsie Lashley, one of more than five wheelchair-bound constituents, cast her ballot and also declared it “a privilege”.
Civilians were not the only ones voting today. At least one police officer in uniform was seen at the Valley Resource Centre casting his ballot.
John Odle had just finished voting at the Glebe Polyclinic when he paused to speak with Barbados TODAY and praised the Government for the way it has been managing the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I don’t think at this time we should be looking to swap or switch to see what will happen,” he suggested.
But a young woman, who only wanted to be referred to as Tamesha, was of the view that there was need for change.
“Do your due diligence and it would feel like you could give another party another chance,” she contended.
A 20-year-old woman who voted at the St George Primary School this afternoon was quite forthright in her comments when she spoke with Barbados TODAY.
“As a young person, things that older persons may not have been able to highlight that our representatives do, I feel like that is our duty to now highlight and have them understand that just because they are put in there, they can be taken out the next election…and they have to go through with their promises and follow what they said they would do,” declared Rolisha Clarke.
Attorney General Dale Marshall who cast his ballot at the Valley Resource Centre, said he found it ironic that he was voting for his party colleague Toni Moore. He was confident she would emerge victorious.