About Barbudans voting in Antigua


I believe the Antigua & Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC)’s decision to have the Barbuda poll taken in Antigua is a sensible move. If the majority of Barbudans are still residing in Antigua then to have the poll taken where most of the electors are makes logistical sense.

That being said… I am yet to be convinced this particular move is supported by law. Having perused the Representation of the People’s (Amendment) Act 2001, I find no section to support moving a polling station to another constituency. Section 35 (see below), which deals with Polling Districts and Polling places, and particularly subsection section 2(c), comes the closest but in my opinion still falls short.

From my reading of the Act, the problem here is it only provides provisions for moving polling stations across districts within the same Constituency. What ABEC is proposing is to move a polling station not to another polling district within the Barbuda constituency (which is impossible since there is one district in Barbuda) but to move it to Antigua within one of the other 16 constituencies.

If you follow the Letter of the law then I would conclude ABEC does not have legal support for the move. Nevertheless, I suppose ABEC could argue since Section 35, subsection 2(c) of the act allows flexibility to move polling places within districts in special circumstances then moving a polling station to another Constituency for a special circumstance does not cause much violence since one could argue it falls within the Spirit of the law.

I believe an amendment to the Act (which has already seen no less than eight amendments) is in order to ensure there is clarity on this matter.

The Representation of the People (Amendment) Act 2001. 35. (1) Every constituency shall be divided into polling districts and, subject to the provisions of this section, there shall be a polling place designated for each district. (2) It shall be the duty of the Commission to divide each constituency into polling districts and to designate the polling places, and to keep the polling districts and polling places under review, in accordance with the following rules –
(a) the Commission shall exercise the powers conferred by this section with a view to giving all electors in the constituency such reasonable facilities for voting as are practicable in the circumstances;
(b) each electoral division shall in the absence of special circumstances be a separate polling district;
(c) the polling place for any polling district shall be an area in that district, except where special circumstances make it desirable to designate an area wholly or partly outside the polling district, and shall be small enough to indicate to electors in different parts of the polling district how they will be able to reach the polling station at the polling place;
(d) a polling place need not be designated for any polling district, if the size and other circumstances of the district are such that the situation of the polling stations thereat does not materially affect the convenience of the electors or any body of them. 

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