False publications and posts, clothing colours, alleged voter intimidation in North and canvassing in South, “survey takers” —plus other issues. Those were some of complaints during yesterday’s voting process. But it was an otherwise safe flow despite long lines and COVID-19 restrictions.
Voter turnout was heavy in some seats—including marginals La Horquetta/Talparo and San Fernando West—and police had to enforce social distancing protocols in some areas.
Police Commissioner Gary Griffith said up to 3.30 pm only two matters were in hand and no extreme problems were reported. He said a complaint of alleged intimidation made by the United National Congress’ St Joseph unit was being investigated.
However, Griffith frowned on the handling of a complaint which he said was circulated by UNC general secretary Dev Tancoo.
“It was a very irresponsible letter which was said to be sent to me but which hasn’t reached me up to now though the whole country knows about it. He made a seriously reckless false claim that police deliberately tried to prevent people from voting in St Augustine. Police would have only been at a location to ensure the law was followed,’’ Griffith added.
“In the little world of Mr Tancoo, it may be that people have to rush around for elections but the law applies every day—including election day. He has my WhatsApp and other contact points, yet I haven’t got his letter though everyone’s heard of it. This says a lot about the integrity of the individual.’’
UNC PRO Anita Haynes had earlier said there were no problems save long lines in Gulf View. People’s National Movement officials didn’t reply to such queries.
The Election and Boundaries Commission was the first affected by issues yesterday following the discovery of a social media publication and a post falsely bearing its name.
At 5.51 am, the EBC had to quickly notify voters that People’s Empowerment Party Diego Martin North/East candidate Phillip Alexander was still a candidate after a publication using EBC’s name claimed he wasn’t. Alexander later said people from a party were trying to influence voters against him.
The EBC also had to advise voters that the electorate could wear any colour on poll day but persons wouldn’t be permitted into polling stations wearing emblems/logos of political parties or with the words “Vote For” on clothing.
That coincided with a report from UNC’s Point Fortin candidate Tarhaqa Obika that an elderly couple was turned away by police and not allowed to vote for wearing yellow. They went home, changed and later voted.
In San Fernando West, there were many complaints about the length of voting time at Gulf View Community Centre due to long lines.
PNM San Fernando West campaign manager Terrence Beepath also noted that situation but added that his party had to call police and the returning officer to halt UNC canvassing in the line by a known female UNC supporter. She was asked to leave.
The T&T Guardian also received a complaint that persons dressed in black were asking people who they voted for when they emerged from voting stations at La Romaine and Gulf View. They said they were working “for a man to do a survey.”
EBC communications manager Bobbi Rogers said such query was illegal. The Representation of the People Act, Chap. 2:01 Section 64 (3) (d) states no person shall directly/indirectly induce an elector to disclose to the name of the candidate/political party for whom they have or have not voted. EBC contacted police on the matter.
Meanwhile, PNM’s St Joseph campaign manager Noel Garcia said his team found three cases of alleged voter impersonation.
Garcia added, “At Aranguez North Secondary school and the primary school, there, we found instances of people impersonating voters to vote. In one instance, a person voted twice at Aranguez North Secondary school.
“We reported it to the Presiding Officers, EBC’s CEO and police. UNC tried to intimidate voters.”
UNC’s St Joseph team, however, showed a receipt for a police report claiming Garcia attempted to intimidate a female supporter at a UNC mock station.
UNC St Joseph team members also confirmed candidate Ahloy Hunt stood his ground and refused to leave a Gandhi Vedic polling station when an election officer asked him to leave after he was there “for two minutes. ”
They said the allotted time under rules is 10 minutes and he insisted on his right since there was an “arbitrary application of the rules.” They said he returned later and spent another 10 minutes in the station.
When the T&T Guardian called Hunt, he said it wasn’t a good time to talk. St Joseph campaign manager Neil Gosein said he wasn’t aware but accused the presiding officer of “slowing down the voting process.”
United National Congress Princes Town candidate Barry Padarath yesterday criticised the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) after he said a person who was alongside him in the line at the Couva Anglican school fainted. He also said he took an hour to vote.
Padarath added, “The process was slow. In many instances, arrangement for the elderly, disabled and other vulnerable weren’t in place. One of the presiding officers offered to let me vote but I said I’d keep to my place and vote just like the other electors.
“If certain standards were adhered to, it didn’t happen here. EBC had since the start of the year to prepare for an election coming this year but the situation didn’t reflect that,” he said, also noting rain and lack of cover for voters in the line at Princes Town stations.
UNC’s David Lee said community centres the EBC used in Pointe-a-Pierre for polling left much to be desired, presenting difficulties for voters to use and to access.
People’s National Movement St Joseph candidate Terrence Deyalsingh also had to dismiss alleged social media rants by Anil Roberts yesterday. He said there was no breach of COVID-19 protocols by his daughter-in-law or special treatment for her.
Deyalsingh said she attended a wedding in Tobago but didn’t stay at the Tropikist Hotel, where a COVID-19 positive patient was confirmed. He said she immediately went into self- isolation and has been there since Sunday.