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Transfer of voters could influence outcome of elections – Edwards

Transfer of voters could influence outcome of elections – Edwards

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The transfer of voters from one constituency to another has the potential to influence the outcome of the next general election.

New Democratic Party (NDP) committee member Elmore Edwards shared this view on May 7, during a meeting he and two other representatives of the NDP had with the Supervisor of Elections{{more}} to clarify some of the party’s concerns with the Voters’ List.

According to Edwards, this is a concern of the NDP, as persons who seek transfers from one constituency to another may be doing so strategically.

“I’m not saying to you that I have hard evidence to back it up. It is just a concern,” Edwards told SEARCHLIGHT when we followed up with him this week.

Explaining, Edwards noted that if a party feels they stand no chance of winning in a particular constituency, they would not have a problem allowing some of their supporters to transfer to another more marginal constituency, where they could have a significant impact and perhaps secure a victory.

“You’re not too worried about giving [Daniel] Cummings (NDP representative for West Kingstown) a larger majority in terms of his win, if the votes transferred to South Leeward are going to make a difference in South Leeward; because you’re already going to lose West Kingstown,” the committee member said, using an example with the neighbouring constituencies of West Kingstown and South Leeward to explain his theory.

“Let’s say Cummings’ margin is 400; 450 is his margin of victory right now. Giving him a margin of 600 is not going to change what is going happen in West Kingstown, but if you were to transfer 150 votes into South Leeward, that can influence the outcome. In other words that can change South Leeward from NDP to ULP (Unity Labour Party).”

Edwards told SEARCHLIGHT that housing projects have the ability to facilitate these types of strategic transfers, as persons move from one area of the island to live in another.

“In 2010, the ULP lost votes in three constituencies over 2005. In other words, they increased their votes in every constituency except in the Grenadines and in West Kingstown. So, they lost votes in the Southern Grenadines and in the Northern Grenadines, but on the mainland, the only constituency in which they lost votes was in West Kingstown.”

He said although the ULP lost four additional seats in 2010, they increased the aggregate difference in the popular vote from 3 266 to 3 299. In other words, they gained an additional 33 votes, but lost four more seats.

According to Edwards, four constituencies that seem to exhibit the trend of strategic transfers are East St George, Central Kingstown, East Kingstown and South Leeward.

When she spoke with SEARCHLIGHT on Tuesday, supervisor of elections Sylvia Findlay said that electoral office records do not reflect heavy transfers.

She, however, disclosed that the three Kingstown constituencies, particularly East Kingstown and Central Kingstown, exhibited the greatest number of transfers, mainly due, in her opinion, to the rural to urban migration taking place in this country.

“That is quite understandable, because there is always that rural to urban move for work…mainly for work. It’s not like it’s a mass transfer,” she said.

The supervisor of elections also made reference to the East St George constituency, noting that because of the construction of the airport, a significant number of persons that relocated from Argyle were placed in Harmony Hall, which is in East St George.

Despite this, she noted that the records do not show that this constituency had a heavier transfer rate than any other constituency.

Under the Representation of the People Act, persons cannot be transferred from one constituency to another until they have lived in the new constituency for a six-month period.

The supervisor of elections highlighted several procedures that are carried out to verify that persons have lived in a particular area for that period, before they can be transferred.

She explained that all transfer procedures are done in the various constituencies, rather than at the Electoral Office in Kingstown. In a case where the individual does not own property, they are required to provide evidence to the registering officer that they have resided in the area for a six-month period.

This can be done using a utility bill or by presentation of a letter from a reputable individual in the community, citing that they know the person and that they are living in the area. These persons can be ministers of religion, a justice of peace, senior police officers or the area nurse. The letter must also bear a stamp.

Findlay said if doubts remain, the office of the supervisor of elections puts that registration on hold until they can conduct further investigations, including visiting the address given by the person to determine if that person does indeed live there and if the person living there matches the photo the office has of them.

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