Was anyone disenfranchised for wearing the ‘wrong’ colour?

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Elections officials who turned away electors yesterday for wearing ‘party’ colours, did so unlawfully, according to attorney at law, Warren Cassell.
He said he found the development rather strange because he has repeatedly examined the Representation of the People Act, its amendments and regulations, and said he found no law that restricts the wearing of any particular colour at the polling station when electors go to vote.
Cassell spoke with OBSERVER media yesterday morning, mere hours after the polls commenced and electors were turned away from the Golden Grove Primary School polling division for the St. John’s Rural South constituency.
More than one person was told they would not be allowed to vote unless they changed out of colours such as red and blue which are affiliated with the two main political parties – the Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP and the United Progressive Party respectively.
Cassell said that was wrong and expressed hope that those people were able to return and vote.
He advised, “There is absolutely no legal basis to turn a voter away because they are wearing colours that are associated with a particular party. If it is an issue whereby they are wearing shirts that are issued by that party with the words vote for [a party], that’s a different situation.”
“When it comes to just colours, if it is you are wearing a uniform from Scotia Bank which is red, or Virgin Holidays, or Royal Bank which is blue, there’s absolutely no basis for turning them back,” he adds.
It should be noted that while people who were dressed in plain red or blue were turned away, people dressed in green, orange or black, which are affiliated with several smaller political parties, were not turned away.
After some complaints and public discourse on the media, people were no longer being turned away.
Cassell said there needs to be a different, more inclusive approach to voter education for the polling clerks and other staff of the electoral commission as well as residents.
And, he said this needs to be done throughout the year, even if an election is not pending.
“Prior to elections, several weeks before elections they need to have townhall meetings, discussion on radio detailing what is and is not allowed on polling day in particular. It has to be ongoing even after election is done,” he stressed.

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