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‘At least 250 people may have voted more than once in the 2010 elections’ – Eustace

‘At least 250 people may have voted more than once in the 2010 elections’ – Eustace

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Is it possible that some individuals may have voted more than once in the last general elections held in St Vincent and the Grenadines? Unlikely, says the supervisor of elections.

This question arose this week when Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace claimed that he had seen over 500 names of persons appearing {{more}}more than once on the voters’ list, which he said suggests that some of those persons may have voted more than once in the 2010 elections.

“In some cases, it might be genuine, but in most cases, it will not be so. Same first name, same second name; 500 such names I’ve seen, which would suggest that at least 250 people may have voted more than once in the last elections,” Eustace said, while speaking on the New Times radio programme on Monday.

While the Opposition Leader stated that he was still examining the figures, he opined that there seemed to be a large number of such cases. He also took the opportunity to encourage constituents in various constituencies to keep a lookout for strangers moving into the area.

“We have to be very vigilant in that area,” Eustace said. “We need to keep our eyes on the ball all the time now in matters of this sort and where we find persons who are registered who should not be in our various constituencies, we must do whatever we do to shine the spotlight on them and have that corrected. And when I say shine the spotlight, I mean take whatever action is necessary to make sure that these people in fact legally registered in your particular constituency.”

SEARCHLIGHT visited the Electoral Office on Wednesday and spoke with supervisor of elections Sylvia Findlay, who stated that she has read every election report dating back to 1951 and has never seen any evidence of anyone trying to vote twice.

“I don’t know if they did, but it was not recorded and I will say this, it is very difficult for someone to,” she said.

According to the supervisor of elections, when a voters’ list is prepared, it comprises several categories, including registered voters and eligible registered voters.

The list of registered voters contains archival data and lists all persons in the country that have ever been registered, whether they are alive, deceased, living in St Vincent and the Grenadines or abroad. This list also highlights the status of this individual and whether they are voters or non-voters. On the other hand, the eligible registered voters’ list contains only the names of persons that are qualified to vote in the next general elections.

“So, the person who registered as a voter way back in the 70s, but is dead, that person’s name is on the list. It is critical to look right across, because the final column on the right says the status of that registrant. Some are voters and some are non-voters. So the voters’ list now comes from the ones who are listed as voters. So those are the people who are presently on the voters’ list,” Findlay explained.

As of April 28, 2015, records at the Electoral Office identify a total of 106,922 persons as eligible registered voters. This number is made up of 54,472 males and 52,450 females. Meanwhile, the total list of persons ever recorded to vote in St Vincent and the Grenadines is approaching 130,000.

The supervisor of elections told SEARCHLIGHT that in some cases, duplicate names may appear on the voters’ list; however, this could be for a number of reasons.

“First of all, you say, are the persons carrying the same voter number? If they carrying the same voter number, then it is the same person. So, then you look to see if it is the same person and I can guarantee you that as long as they are carrying the same voter number, they are not eligible voters. The system is programmed to just block that. We can’t go any further with that registration,” she said.

Therefore, in cases where names appear twice on the registered voters’ list, their status is recorded as being a non-voter.

“I can tell you that even within the same constituency, you will see two people with the same name, but they are not the same person. People come here every day and they give us the name and if we type in the name, 12 names come up,” Findlay explained.

The supervisor of elections added that even in cases where one person tries to register under two different names, the system picks it up.

“We’ve had the odd case where a person is known by a particular name, registered in that name way back, when you didn’t have to bring any documents, maybe in the 80s, but tries to register today with a totally different name…

“Once that person comes to register and has the same date of birth, the mother’s maiden name, … [the system] says to us, somebody has that data. Now, we have to now look at other things. We have to pull up the photo for these two persons, look at them; sometimes it requires us to call the person to the office.”

In cases where more than one person carries the same name, Findlay stated that other variables that are presented should be examined. These variables include gender, date of birth, address, constituency, polling division and most importantly, the voter’s number.

She also pointed out that to date, no political party, no returning officer or residing officer indicated that they saw or were informed of any duplication in the last election. She further noted that the system used has built-in mechanisms to prevent duplication and that whenever duplication is identified, it is dealt with accordingly.

The supervisor of elections stressed that voting twice is illegal and highlighted several methods put in place to prevent any such occurrence.

“Everybody who votes, must immerse before your ballot paper goes into the box; the voter has to immerse his or her index finger into the electoral ink. That is to say to all and sundry ‘I have voted’. Contrary to what people say… you might get it off your nail, but you’re not getting off from around the edges there, that cuticle area,” she said.

Also, Findlay indicated that each party candidate for a constituency is allowed an agent in the room with the presiding officer during an election. This agent is there to observe the proceedings and can object to a person voting if that individual is identified to not be a resident within the constituency. This objection is subject to further investigation.

Findlay said politicians, political party agents, the media and others who may have influence on the wider community should educate persons on the electoral processes within their country.

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