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Getting it right!

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The issue of the integrity of the voters’ list has been a hot topic of debate on the local talk radio circuit ever since the lists were posted two weeks ago. Callers have been having heated discussions about the alleged absence of names of eligible voters and the presence of names of deceased persons or persons who have emigrated. One caller even suggested that there were names of non-existent persons on the list as she had never heard “those names in St. Vincent before.”

What really is the problem here? Is there even a problem? Our investigations have shown that the issues that have surfaced may be as a result of several different factors.{{more}}

First of all, when the Electoral Office began to issue the new ID cards after the last general elections, each elector was asked to present his or her birth certificate or passport. The name recorded on the new ID card, and hence the voters’ list was that given on the birth certificate or passport. Apparently, this method had not been used when the old ID cards were issued, so many persons had been listed previously using aliases instead of their legal names. Some persons may well be looking for the name by which they are popularly known, instead of their legal name.

Secondly, boundaries have been shifted in six constituencies. For some reason, this fact has not been much publicized. This is information that the

general public needs to have. We need to know the polling divisions and constituencies that have been affected by the Boundaries Commission report.

In some cases, the voters’ lists are being displayed at locations outside of the immediate vicinity of the residents of that polling division. For example, in the West Kingstown constituency, the list for polling Division E, which is made up of residents of New Montrose, is located at Harold Llewellyn’s shop at Battery Hill, Edinboro. Why Battery Hill? Residents of New Montrose would reasonably expect to find their names at one of the two advertised locations in New Montrose, or at Stoney Ground or even Hospital Road. But Battery Hill? The impatient among those residents may be excused for thinking that their names were omitted after they had checked the voters’ lists at the four locations closest to them.

The recently concluded enumeration exercise was carried out with the objective of cleaning up the old voters’ list. That list had in excess of 90,000 persons, which, when one considers that at the end of the 2001 census, this country had a population of a little over 106,000 persons, suggested that there were names on the list that needed to be removed.

The extent to which this was achieved is a subject of much debate. Enumerators were asked to visit each household in the country to check to see if there was anyone on the old voters’ list who had been living overseas continuously for more than 5 years, had died or had moved to another constituency.

Enumerators have reported that their efforts were hindered, in some cases, by persons who refused to give them information. It would be interesting to find out if these are the very persons who are now reporting that their dead or overseas relatives’ names are still on the list. Additionally, some persons claim that their households were never visited. We wonder how thorough some of the enumerators were.

The good thing in all of this is that there is now heightened public awareness of the need for individuals to check the list. Even with the all the misinformation that has been circulating, and attempts by some to spread panic, the discussion is good, and now is the time to have the discussion.

Now, while we have a chance to take some action to rectify any identified errors. It is better that we clean up the list now, dispel all the doubts than

wake up on Election Day to find out that the list is flawed. If not, we will be providing whichever party comes out of the election disappointed with ready-made reasons why they should not accept the result.

It is the responsibility of each eligible voter to verify that his or her name is on the list; the responsibility of the Electoral Office to ensure that the list, as far as is humanly possible, is clean and ready for Election Day; and of the Government to provide the Electoral Office with all the resources and support they need to achieve this before we go to the polls.

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