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HomeNewsLocal NewsOAS publishes full Preliminary Report for 2022 General Elections in SKN

OAS publishes full Preliminary Report for 2022 General Elections in SKN

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by Kevon Browne

 St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): The Electoral Observation Mission of the Organization of American States has published its full Preliminary Report for the General Elections of August 5 in St. Kitts and Nevis.

The Mission, led by the former Prime Minister of Jamaica, the Honourable Bruce Golding, had eleven experts and observers from nine countries.

The team was present in all of the 11 constituencies of St. Kitts and Nevis on election day to observe the conduct of the poll, the tabulation of ballots, and the transmission of results at five counting centres in St. Kitts.

The mission also analysed critical aspects of the electoral process, including electoral organisation and technology, electoral justice, political financing and women’s political participation, to present issues, findings and recommendations for the electoral process moving forward.

Prior to Election Day

One of the observations noted in the report was the mistrust in the Electoral Commission and a ‘strained’ working relationship between the Commission and the Supervisor of Elections.

The report cited Sections 33 and 34 of the Constitution of Saint Kitts and Nevis, which stated that the Electoral Commission supervises the Supervisor of Elections, who then reports to and acts following the directions of the Electoral Commission.

The report read, “In its engagement with the Commission and Supervisor, however, there appeared to be ambivalence on both sides about the practical functioning of their respective supervisory authorities and reporting responsibilities, as well as an underlying lack of trust, which did not seem conducive to effective collaboration.”

According to the commission, the preparation by the Electoral Office for the General Elections had some shortfalls, reporting that key election-related actions which were not time-bound were not concluded until shortly before the elections, including the list of polling stations for the elections not being finalised and published until August 2, three days before the poll and the training sessions for poll staff were still being conducted in the days before the election.

Another hot topic before the General Elections was the final Voters List and issues about names on the May 2022 voters list in Constituency No 2, as the Electoral Office did not conduct a complete Claims and Objections process before issuing the revised May list.

People’s Action Movement Chairman  Jonel Powell filed an action with the courts of St. Kitts and Nevis because he was concerned over the voters list in Constituency No 2, 1 and 4 for the August 5 elections.

Powell stated on July 29, during WINN FM’s Voices, that 235 names had been added to the list in his constituency, Central Basseterre stating that 117 were registered in May and alleging an additional 118 names were subsequently added and not present on the annual list released in January or any of the official revised lists.

The OAS reported that the issue was resolved, with some 29 names being removed the day before the elections.

On August 3, Powell filed a complaint with the courts, challenging the inclusion of the revised May list stating that the list had not been subjected to the mandatory Claims and Objection process.

The complaint was heard on August 4. All parties, including the Supervisor of Elections, agreed to remove 29 new names from Constituency 2 in polling stations 1, 2, 3 and 4. The list was reprinted to conform with the decision of the court.

Election Day

There were 128 established polling stations, and according to the Mission, all the polls opened on time. Poll workers and the required equipment and materials were present in all locations.

Political Party agents were also present at all polling stations.

There was only one voting booth at each polling station, so the voting process was slow throughout the day as a single voter cast their ballot at a time. The Mission reported that they observed no egregious reactions to the slow process from the voters, but that led to some polling stations with lines of voters still present after the close of the polls.

The report added that some locations closed promptly at 6:00 PM, with no voters remaining in line. In other sites, long lines of voters remained at the official close of polls but were allowed to vote as stated in the law.

In Constituency 2, voting was completed, and the ballot box was sealed after 10 pm.

The tabulation of ballots did not commence until close to midnight on August 5, with the last results coming in at around 9:00 a.m.

The Mission’s Findings and Recommendations

The findings and recommendations of the OAS are based on its analysis of the electoral system, the information gathered through discussions with national and electoral authorities, political parties, civil society and the international community before the elections, and its observations on Election Day.

One finding included citizens’ distrust in the office of the Supervisor of Elections. It made four recommendations, including strengthening the Electoral Commission and the technical and human capacity of the Electoral Office to increase its efficiency and agility in the organisation and implementation of electoral processes.

Another finding which has been an issue within the local electoral process was the counting of ballots and the time it took to report.

Apart from the inefficiency in the time it takes to count the ballot; the mission surmised that even if all polling stations ended operations promptly at 6 p.m., the requirement that all ballots cast in a constituency be reviewed by a single person, the Returning Officer, after more than 12 exhausting hours of managing an electoral process, is impractical and inefficient.

The following recommendations were proposed:

  • Amending the Elections Act to allow a preliminary count of ballots done by the Presiding Officer at each polling station, in the presence of party agents, immediately following the close of polls.

  •  The Returning Officer can undertake a second and final count of the ballots to verify the results before they are certified.

The mission also suggested advanced voting by poll workers and members of the security services and considering mechanisms to facilitate voting by other categories of persons who may not be able to visit their polling stations on Election Day physically.

The mission also noted some issues with the Constituency Boundaries that have remained unchanged since 1983 and are “deepening inequity in the distribution of electors per constituency.”

On St. Kitts, the largest constituency, No 8, had 7,370 registered voters, and the smallest, No 5, had 3,223 registered voters.

In Nevis, Constituency No 9 reported 6,669 registered voters, and No 10 had 1,845.

The OAS recommends reconvening the Constituency Boundaries Commission at the earliest opportunity allowed by the Constitution to undertake a review that takes account of population changes and ensures the equal representation of electors, among three other recommendations.

Other recommendations in the report include:

  • Training for poll workers,

  • signage identifying polling places,

  • the implementation of an electoral results transmission system that utilises a secure computer infrastructure

  • Establishing limits on private donations and in-kind contributions from individuals, businesses, and the media, prohibiting anonymous donations, and

  • Political parties should make greater efforts to actively recruit and nominate women as candidates and to prevent and penalise any type of restriction or intimidation toward women.

See the full OAS preliminary report here:

https://www.oas.org/en/media_center/press_release.asp?sCodigo=S-010/22.

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