Residents will have to wait several hours following the close of polls on Wednesday to learn who has won the 2018 general election in Antigua and Barbuda.
Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC) Chairman Nathaniel “Paddy” James anticipates there to be no improvement in the time it takes to the count the ballots.
In 2014, it wasn’t until 3 am that the lion’s share of ballots was counted, notwithstanding the fact that the then government already conceded defeat.
“The problem is that we have not yet been able to convince the politicians to change the system of counting ballot boxes at a central location in each constituency,” lamented the ABEC Chairman.
James said, “[the politicians] would rather stand up there when the boxes come to see each box as it’s counted, rather than get the information from a second-hand source.”
As it stands now, each box from each polling station must be transported under police guard to a central location within each constituency and the Returning Officer for that district must conduct the count of all constituency boxes one by one.
“The returning officer is only human and with some constituencies being significantly larger than some, it becomes a very laborious undertaking to endure.”
When asked to compare the task to that of the recently concluded elections in Grenada that announced its winner by 10 pm that very evening, the commissioner said that, “St. Kitts and Antigua and Barbuda remain the only two countries in the OECS to remain with this antiquated system of counting boxes and if it stays that way we will always be behind.”
There are now over 51,000 registered voters in this year’s election, up from 47,724 in 2014. To handle the additional load, James said the commission has enlisted additional persons including polling clerks and presiding officers bringing the total number of election workers to 600.
Despite this fact, however, James still anticipates that preliminary results won’t be expected until the wee hours of the following day.
The chairman also sought to allay fears of Barbuda voters who will be voting in Antigua for the first time at the T.N. Kirnon Primary School.
He states that all of the polling station workers familiar with their usual station at the Sir McChesney George Secondary School in Barbuda have been retained for tomorrow’s voting process.
“The only non-Barbudan is Returning Officer Vernest Mack. And Vernest is very familiar with the Barbudans and would have been selected to officiate matters in Barbuda should that have been the venue for voting.”
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