11,000 special voters begin casting ballots
Thursday, October 17 2013
THE first ballots are in for the Local Government elections as special voters cast their votes yesterday.
The highly charged election campaign has sparked much interest and the strong start to early voting points to a high turnout on Monday, according to an Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) official.
Those casting their ballots yesterday are part of 11,000 special voters entitled to vote between yesterday and Friday this week.
Polling stations were open at Scott House, Frederick Street, Port-of-Spain and the Penal/Debe Registration Area Office at 194 Circular Road, corner Royal Road, San Fernando from 9.30 am and was scheduled to close at about 3 pm.
Yesterday a number of people of varying ages were sitting and waiting to vote, at Scott House including a few women in their twenties.
One EBC official told Newsday that he is already noting a higher than usual voter turn out.
“We (at the EBC) traditionally have a poor turn out. Everyone over 60 knows that. Local Government elections was never taken seriously,” he said.
He noted currently this year the election has taken on a “seriousness” and “largeness”. He also reported that a lot of younger electors have decided they want to have a say so they were turning out to vote as well.
“It is the first time in a long time so many people are coming out to vote,” he said. He did not however, provide any statistics but was only commenting on what he had noticed.
Among the young special voters yesterday was 21-year-old Noelicia La Borde, a Health Ministry employee. Questioned about more youths turning out as special voters La Borde noted the youths were realising how serious the elections are and she was encouraging her friends and people who had not voted before to come out and vote.
Special voter Ethelbert Kirk, 67, from Diego Martin, said he believes people are more impressed with this year’s election about the deliberations of the Local Government sector.
“People want to be able to connect with their councillor and see them perform,” he added.
Kirk also noted that as the population grows some communities that were previously “dormant” are now asking for more infrastructure, services and flood prevention.
Special voters are classes of people who may not be free to vote on election day due to their profession. These include police officers, Defence Force members, flight-crew and offshore operators. Individual voters may apply to be treated as special voters for certain circumstances such as traveling. House Speaker Wade Mark was among those who cast his ballot early, as he is scheduled to be out of the country on October 21.
Mark arrived at about 9.50 am, hand in hand with his wife Sushilla. He greeted Newsday warmly and then proceeded upstairs.
Also at Scott House yesterday were Opposition MP Colm Imbert, People’s National Movement (PNM) general secretary Ashton Ford and former National Security Minister Martin Joseph.
Imbert told Newsday that they had met with the EBC on matters of “national importance” but did not provide any further detail.
Meanwhile, in the southland there was a steady stream of special voters at the Circular Road polling station in San Fernando. Newsday spoke to a senior EBC official at the polling station who said that the process ran smoothly throughout the day.
“We have two presiding officers who have been assigned to the polling station here,” the official told Newsday. “I can’t give you the figure but I can tell you that persons have been coming in slowly to cast their votes.”
Candidates from the United National Congress (UNC), Congress of the People (COP), People’s National Movement (PNM), Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) and National Joint Action Committee (NJAC) are among the major political parties vying for seats in 14 municipal corporations in Monday’s election. Voting continues today.