The counting of ballots at polling stations and by an approved accounting firm and a fixed date for the General Elections are just few of the recommendations being made by the Free and Fair Elections League in its recently released 2023 Election Observer Report.
The League was one of several observer missions which monitored the January 18 elections. While the other missions submitted preliminary reports with their findings and recommendations at least 48 hours after the polls, the League released its report last Friday (February 3).
The League is also recommending that the Representation of the People Act of 2001 be revisited to put sanctions in place to enforce compliance with the provisions of the law and to clarify areas that are vague or ambiguous.
Additionally, the election observer body is of the opinion that the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC) needs to strengthen its educational programme on a more engaging basis. It suggests that trying to push for these educational initiatives to be placed on the school’s curriculum be undertaken. The engagement of civil society as well is also an idea being proffered by the League.
According to the League, ABEC needs to ensure that a clean list exists during an election cycle by ensuring that the names of dead persons are removed.
It was noted that other electoral reforms are needed, including the numbering of houses and the naming of streets for more precise addresses of electors. The League also suggests that attention be given to ongoing registration in the constituencies and not in a centralized location; the reformation of election campaign financing laws, and the merging of the Boundaries and Electoral Commissions for greater efficiency.
The report also says that there needs to be a revision of boundaries, which is necessary since there are some rather large constituencies and other some small ones, which results in voter disparity. Reportedly the last boundary adjustment was done in 1984.
The League is of the opinion that a political Ombudsman should be put in place to deal with political complaints and things of such nature.
ABEC is being urged to begin to look at mechanisms to allow for electronic voting. The League suggests that the Commission could run a pilot program in one or two of the smaller constituencies.
The League says that the Commission must have a cut-off date and time to facilitate persons who claim to have lost their voter identification cards. There is always a mad rush on the day of election for persons wishing to obtain a temporary voter ID card.
According to the League, persons should not be allowed to flock to the office on polling day seeking to obtain new cards.