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Electoral Department Gears Up for July, 26 Polls

By Reginald Andrew

CHAIRPERSON of the Electoral Commission, Cynthia Combie Martyr has assured that the unit is in a state of preparedness for the upcoming July, 26 general elections.

In keeping with its commitment to execute an unprecedented ‘pandemic election’ under strict regulatory protocols, the St Lucia Electoral Department has been busy putting its machinery in place for the upcoming polls.

Police officers and electoral department officials at a meeting.
Police officers and electoral department officials at a meeting.

Despite the suddenness of the election date announced by Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, the electoral department says the unit is up to the task and ready to deliver.

“The timing of the elections did not in any way prevent us from doing what we had to do, to be prepared for the elections,” said Combie-Martyr.

“We want to ensure that the elections run smoothly and we would be able to have a free, fair and transparent elections,” she added.

“Everything is more or less in place and we are trying to fine tune the processes,” Combie–Martyr asserted, while stating that the unit will ensure the execution of an efficient and seamless process.

The electoral commissioner said they are currently completing training for election workers, and especially, “in preparation for the advanced poll, which takes place on Friday.”

She said that otherwise, “we are more or less in a position to proceed with the general poll, on Monday.”

Combie–Martyr explained that the advance poll will accommodate officers from the Royal St Lucia Police Force, Bordelais Correctional Facility and St Lucia Fire Services.

She said for the second time, since the 2016 elections the unit will employ a method to allow ‘early voting’ for hospital patients to cast their vote. The hospitals will include, namely Tapion Hospital, OKEU Hospital and St. Jude’s Hospital.

Also, patients at the two care facilities St Lucy’s Home and Comfort Bay, in Vieux Fort will be accommodated in the ‘early voting’ process , and as well, election workers and the commissioner will be part of that group.

A few months ago, Chief Electoral Officer at the Electoral Department, Mr Gasper Jn Baptiste had stated that Saint Lucia was all set to hold its general election, constitutionally due for this October.

“The Electoral Department is always in a state of preparedness,” Jn Baptiste said, by virtue of the fact that registration is ongoing on a daily basis where people come in for identification cards, change of addresses etc.

Jn Baptiste explained that the voters’ list is prepared twice annually, June and December, “So it means we are always ready and it is just a matter of the Government when they are ready to decide on a date to call the elections so that we can complete the whole process.”

Consequently, last Thursday, the Electoral Department held the second of a two-day training workshop for election officials to prepare for the process of advanced voting.

The workers included presiding officers, poll clerks and assistant poll clerks; and the officers will be further briefed on what their roles are on July 23, when the officers will be voting.

Herman St Helen
Herman St Helen

Herman St Helen, Assistant in the Electoral Department noted that the officers must familiarize themselves with the various equipment, documents and conduct of the poll during election taking into consideration newly established protocols.

He stressed that it was imperative for the Electoral Department to undertake this process, which “is extremely important to the point that it depends on the success and how transparent our polling is.”

The Royal Saint Lucia Police Force and other essential services are gearing up to cast their ballots early, ahead of the scheduled July 26 general election.

“It is very interesting and so we want to make sure that the process is fair and everything is done by how general elections will be conducted,” Superintendent of Police, Elvis Thomas explained.

Thomas also told reporters the RSLPF officers were all set to ensure that the election process runs smoothly and urged the public to comply with the police and safeguard their turf, while they exercise their franchise.

Nevertheless, there has been much anxiety and eagerness on the part of voters to exercise their franchise.

With Nomination Day held on Friday, there was quite a bit of limited street revelry with party supporters as they lined up to cheer on their respective political candidates as the individuals went to register.

While Saint Lucia’s election will take place in an unprecedented period, the chief electoral officer says the Department will be working closely with the Ministry of Health to ensure COVID-19 protocols are put in place to ensure that elections are held safely.

“We have to adapt to the new normal,” Jn. Baptiste declared.

“COVID will definitely have a greater impact on the process itself because now that you are social distancing, people have to stay six feet away, so it means that you are anticipating that it would have longer lines, and so we must prepare ourselves for that eventuality,” he continued. “We must sanitise the polling stations, people must wear masks, the elections will be done within the protocols of the COVID, and we can’t get away from that.”

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