ABEC expects official results later than last election

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The counting of all ballots cast in today’s General Election and the official results are not expected before 3 a.m. tomorrow. That’s the prediction of the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC).
In 2014, the last ballot boxes that were tabulated came from the St. George constituency. Using that as a guide, Ian Hughes, ABEC’s Human Resource and training officer, said there are now eight more boxes to count in varying constituencies.
“I anticipate it going a little longer because of St. John’s Rural West. They now have 18 boxes. The last election they had 15, and All Saints East and St. Luke have another two boxes. We have eight more boxes to be counted,” he said.
Hughes said the process could be sped up if presiding officers were empowered to count the ballots at the polling stations, rather than having all the boxes from one constituency being transported to a central counting station.
However, he admitted the current law would have to be amended to allow the change of procedure.
“In Grenada the other day, the process was completed by 9:30 p.m., and we would like to be in that same situation,” Hughes said. “Outside of Antigua and St. Kitts, everyone in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States and Latin America, the count is done at the polling station.”
He posited that agents of the political parties would already be at the polling stations monitoring the process, therefore, representatives of the political hopefuls can observe the transparent process of counting at the polling stations.
Meanwhile, in echoing Hughes’ sentiments, Nathaniel “Paddy” James, the Chairman of ABEC, added that because the administration of election is statutory, parliament would have to intervene.
“This matter was raised at the highest level, Cabinet. It is a policy decision that things will remain as it is. We would like to have it changed. Irrespective of how we think, it matters not how prudent it appears to you and members of the public. It is for the parliament to make that judgment call. We have done everything… some members of the Cabinet have different views on that.”
James also said unreliable Internet service and undependable electricity supply is one of the reasons the country cannot immediately look to electronic voting.
“We must all remember, we are in a third world country. We are not in America with all the resources. That is for the future. I would never recommend right now that the government go into electronic voting. And if we have a blackout for a considerable amount of time or an Internet disturbance, then we would have a problem,” he said.
The polls opened at 6 a.m. today and close at 6 p.m. ABEC said anyone in the line to vote before 6 p.m. will be allowed to cast their ballot.

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