ABEC Sputters To A Start

ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Over 800 people were registered up to 5 pm Monday, the first day of the Antigua & Barbuda Electoral Commission’s (ABEC) mass registration exercise amid numerous delays and system glitches.

Many voiced their frustration over the sluggish movements of the lines, though ABEC Public Relations Officer Anne Harewood-George chalked up the delays to “teething problems.”

“It was the first day, so I wouldn’t say it was a disaster. Yes, there were some glitches and delays but overall the process went well,” Harewood-George said.

The PRO, refuting some public sentiment, said the day could only be categorised as a “disaster” had nothing worked, if people had not turned out, or the systems broke down. None of these things happened, Harewood-George said.

“There were some hiccups but we’re learning from those. We will evaluate the situation and work towards rectifying those problems,” Harewood-George added.

Reports of problems at virtually every registration centre, in addition to raising hackles of people attempting to register, provided fertile ground for conspiracy theories. These were heard in the queues and over the airways. Murmurings among several anticipant electors suggested that the glitches were designed to steal the election.

Opposition Leader Gaston Browne said the start of registration was a disaster, and he promised legal action within 48 hours against ABEC. Browne said too many voters will be disenfranchised under the current re-registration process.

OBSERVER media visited many of the 16 registration centres on Antigua and received reports from others.

Many of the registration stations, all set to open at 7 am, opened late, several by as much as an hour-and-fifteen minutes in some areas.

In the morning hours there were reports of disruptions and computer glitches in the constituencies of St Mary’s North, St John’s Rural West, St John’s Rural North and All Saints West.

In Rural North registration began at 7:45 because the camera to take voter ID pictures had not arrived on site. It reportedly took 16 minutes to register the first person once the process began.

In St Mary’s North, the process was delayed after equipment did not arrive because of a transportation “mix up.” That mix-up segued into equipment failure, and up to around 9:30 am, the first person was still waiting to be registered.

(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)