Persons arriving in St. Vincent and the Grenadines after this Saturday, Oct. 31, will not be permitted to vote in next Thursday’s general elections.
“The reason being is that there is a mandatory five-day quarantine at a hotel [approved] by the government, so that once you come in after the 31st of this month, you have to be in quarantine and you will not be permitted to break that quarantine so that you can vote,” opposition politician Kay Bacchus-Baptiste said Thursday night.
Bacchus-Baptiste, a lawyer and the New Democratic Party’s candidate for West St. George, has been interfacing with electoral officials as political parties and the election chief hammer out issues related to conducting the polls amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
She told an NDP virtual public meeting Thursday night that registered voters who enter the country before Oct. 31 will be permitted to vote, even if they are still in quarantine but only if they have completed the mandatory five-day quarantine at a hotel and are self-quarantining at home.
“… the health authorities and the Supervisor of Elections have decided that they will give a special pass for these persons to vote between 5 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.”
She, however, added that persons have asked how is such a voting period possible, given that the law says that voting must end by 5 p.m.
“Well, they are going to have to pass some sort of regulation and amend the Representation of the People Regulation to permit this,” Bacchus-Baptiste said.
“I think the Attorney General is well aware of this and is working on something.”
The politician further said that persons have questioned how this is possible, in light of the fact that Parliament is prorogued.
Only parliament can amend the RPA and Bacchus-Baptiste said that what the government would amend is the regulations under the law, adding that in some circumstances, Cabinet may still meet and make regulations.
“But, the regulations must not offend the offences [under] the RPA,” she said.
“So that if persons are being brought in by planeloads for the purpose of voting, that can be regarded as treating and that will be an offence. If persons, just on their own, come into St. Vincent, then that is not treating and they can go to vote,” she said.
Election treating occurs when an election candidate or their agents offer material incentives for people to vote for them or to abstain from voting.
Bacchus-Baptiste said that the protocol is that persons who are in quarantine but permitted to vote can get themselves from their home to their various polling stations.
They will still be required to vote in the polling stations at which they are registered.
The number of such persons is not yet known.
“But it may be somewhere around the hundreds,” Bacchus-Baptiste said.
“A list is to be handed to the Supervisor of Elections by the health authorities and all the persons who are 18 and above and who are on the list and eligible to vote, a list will be made of them and this list should be — and we will make sure that that it is — circulated to all the stakeholders, including the political parties, so that we will know beforehand who these people are and if there are any challenges to be made, we can make these challenges.”
Is this not unconstitutional? Preventing people from voting because they are in quarantine is total BS. The Government have to find some way of getting these people to their respective polling stations.
I am surprised Mrs Bacchus- Baptiste and the NDP are not objecting to such a policy that clearly disenfranchised voters. What, are we now taking a page out of Trump’s play book of voters suppression.
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