BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC):
The Electoral and Boundaries Commission (EBC) Monday said that just over 266,000 people are eligible to cast ballots in today’s general election that Prime Minister Mia Mottley has called 18 months ahead of the constitutional deadline.
“I can now tell you that 266,330 persons are registered to vote. The register for elections has been printed and distributed to all political parties and independent candidates and the election officers are collecting the last of their equipment and supplies as we speak,” EBC chairman, Leslie Haynes, told a news conference, adding “I can say to you all that the EBC is ready for the general election on January 19, 2022”.
In the last general election, there was a turnout of 60 percent with 255,833 people eligible to vote.
A total of 108 candidates, representing seven political parties and nine independents, are contesting the poll that political observers say will be a straight fight between the ruling Barbados Labour Party (BLP) and the Democratic Labour Party (DLP).
In the 2018 general election, Mottley created history when she led the BLP to a clean sweep of all the 30 seats in the Parliament, defeating the then DLP administration of Freundel Stuart.
Barbados becomes the latest Caribbean country to be staging a general election during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic following countries like St Kitts-Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Bahamas, St Lucia, Cayman Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Haynes told reporters that the EBC will be following the COVID-19 protocols “to the letter”, urging voters to main social distancing, wear masks and wash their hands frequently.
“In addition, the polling booth will be sanitised after each voter and there are large numbers of new pencils at each polling station, but if at all pencils have to be reused they will be sanitised,” he said.
The poll clerk will not be taking ID card from voters but will instead request the voter to show the front and back of the card. However, the poll clerk and presiding officer will sanitise their hands after any contact with the voter.”
Haynes said the voters should also consider casting ballots throughout the day to avoid “a bunching up” at the polling stations which open at 6 a.m. (local time) and close 12 hours later.
LATE VOTERS LIST
The EBC chairman also dismissed suggestions that the voter’s list was late in being published, telling reporters “the EBC categorically denies that the register of electors is late.
“If you review the legislation, you will find that the 19-day period for updating the register ended on midnight on Saturday, January 15. The printing of the register was then completed on Sunday, January 16.”
He said at least 3,700 electoral officials will be on duty today, and that they, too, will be following the COVID-19 protocols outlined by the COVID-19 monitoring unit.
The EBC said that voters will not be required to present proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result to vote, but if their temperature is too high on the day they will be “given priority.
“That person will be brought … to the door away from other voters in the line and that person will be given priority to enter the polling station. The protocols in the polling station will apply, and after the person has voted and they leave … the voting booths and everything that is used in the polling station will be sanitised,” said Haynes.