Friday, 07 September 2012 02:30
By caribarena news
Antigua St. John’s - Charles Eddie Hunte, 76, was the first voter to cast his ballot in the country’s inaugural mock election.
Hunte, the president of the Pensioner’s Association, arrived at 1st Choice Supermarket just after 7 am yesterday, almost an hour before the polls opened.
He said he thought voting began at 6 am as is the norm in general elections.
“I think it was a good thing to revive the lagging interest in voter activities because it is imperative that you have people go out and vote rather than having this apathetic feeling. This is a very good exercise to revive this lagging spirit,” the St. John’s City West resident said.
Taxi driver Kitson Howe said he too would cast his ballot.
“People need to wake up and see what’s wrong with the country and get ready for the next election,” Howe said. “I think this would get people ready. I’m looking forward to it.”
Organisers said the four polling stations opened on time including Bargain Centre Supermarket at Perry Bay, Christo's Supermarket on Old Parham Road close to Antigua Motors, and Epicurean Fine Foods & Pharmacy on Friar’s Hill Road.
Returning Officer E. Denicia Thomas, a barrister who visited all polling stations, described the public response as good.
She said at Bargain Centre people were inquiring about what they hope to accomplish through the exercise.
“At Bargain Centre the challenge might be that persons came not realising we were following the process as would happen in an actual election in that you have to present your Voter’s ID card and we will check it against the voter’s register,” she explained.
“If you don’t have your voter’s ID card, we do take any other government issued ID and we check the name on the ID with what is on the register to make sure the individual is still the same.”
The two established political parties – the ruling United Progressive Party and the main opposition Antigua Labour Party did not respond to the league’s request for polling agents to be sent to observe and report on the conduct of the election.
Secretary of the Free and Fair Elections League George Rick James struck aside suggestions that this could affect the legitimacy of the exercise.
“They cannot not legitimise the exercise. The exercise will legitimise them one way or the other,” he said in response.
Chiming in on that issue, Chief Elections Officer Hezekiah Lewis said the simulation is not about political parties by rather “values that Antiguans and Barbudans cherish such as democratic principles and free elections.”
“What we want to raise is not only the consciousness of the importance of the democratic process, but we also want to raise the idea that there are issues in Antigua & Barbuda that are going to affect the elections that are coming up in a year and a half,” he said.
Voting takes place every Thursday until September 27th, with the polls closing at 6 pm. Residents on Barbuda will cast their ballots on the final day.
After the close of polls, the ballots will be transferred to a ballot box at Epicurean that will be sealed.
Guardian Security has been engaged to ensure the container is safely stored until the next polling day.
The counting takes place the evening of the final day, possibly at Bargain Centre.