ABEC pleased with election day processes

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The Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC) says it is satisfied with the conduct of the March 21 general election, with better staff and more polling places leading to a smoother voting process.
ABEC Chairman Nathaniel “Paddy” James, along with a team of commissioners and ABEC staff addressed the media yesterday at the commission’s post-election media briefing.
“From all account, it appears that things went well as far as the administration of polling and the lead up to that process which are vital to the preservation of the electoral jurisprudence in Antigua and Barbuda,” James said.
Speculation had been rife on election day that the voter turnout would be low since there were little to no signs of long queues as the day progressed. The eventual turned out was pegged at around 76 percent, or about 39,000 of the 51,000 people who were eligible to vote.
Ian Hughes, the assistant to the supervisor of elections, credited the arrangements put in place by the Commission for the seamless voting.
“In 2014 we had 164 polling stations, this year we increased it to 172, so therefore we were able to spread the number of polling stations across a number of the constituencies. The second thing that we did was to increase the number of polling booths within each polling station so that process would move a lot quicker, a lot faster, hence it would cut down the length of waiting time in line.
“Also we chose presiding officers who were very efficient, persons who were able to deal with the lines, to deal with the numbers that we anticipated. So the process flowed a lot smoother, hence giving the appearance to the public that there was no line because the process was moving a lot quicker,” Hughes explained.
Addressing what could have been done better, Hughes said the need for more access ramps for differently-abled people at some polling stations was one of the things that stood out.
Meanwhile, the chairman said they are now awaiting the reports from the international observer missions that were here scrutinising the process. One of the preliminary recommendations from the Commonwealth observers was that the counting of ballots be done at the polling stations to speed up the declaration of winners.
But James noted that that it is up to the politicians to change the law, something the Commission has been pushing for since the last Labour government.
“We know the value of that aspect, and so I hope in this present parliament that the government of the day will see the wisdom in doing this because the international community complained to me, all of them.
“But it is not that we are not aware of it, because it’s not consistent with best practice with democratic processes throughout Latin America, the Caribbean and even in the Commonwealth.”
According to James, Antigua and Barbuda is one of the last Latin American countries still counting ballots at a central location.

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