With general elections less than a year away, the Parliamentary Elections Office is getting itself ready for the poll.
Officials of the office held a press conference Tuesday in which they urged Grenadians to educate themselves with the legislation that governs the Office, its role and responsibilities.
The press briefing came against the backdrop of complaints from the main opposition New National Party (NNP) of former Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell that many persons are experiencing problems in getting registered to vote and to get their ID cards.
The Parliamentary Elections Office has organised a month of awareness aimed at increasing knowledge about civics and voter education under the theme, “Building Stakeholder Confidence”.
The activities are intended to create greater awareness about the Parliamentary Elections Office, its functions and the laws that govern its mandate.
According to Supervisor of Elections, Judy Benoit, the theme was carefully chosen as they have listened to the cries of the people and it fits in with their vision as they work to meet the people’s confidence in the office.
Activities for the month include an extended day for persons to get registered from 10.00 a.m. – 7.00 p.m. next week Wednesday (February 12), a visit to the Fr. Hilarion Cheshire Home for the Age in St. Patrick, Training for Police Officers on the conduct of Election and a Forum for Political Parties/launch of Website and Election Handbook at the National Stadium on February 27.
The Forum for Political Parties will give all 16 registered political parties in Grenada an opportunity to express their views and concerns.
While the forum is mainly for political parties, an invitation has been extended to members of the Grenada Conference of Churches, the Ombudsman and members of the media.
Benoit told reporters the target of the office is to register by the end of October, 60,000 of eligible persons who were enumerated during the 2012 enumeration. To date 41,520 people have been registered.
Addressing accusations of problems in the registration process, Registration Officer, Leslie-Ann James who is attached to the St. Andrew North West Office said that officials face several challenges that result in a delay in the registration process.
She identified some of the problems as person’s refusal to walk with an official birth certificate, a valid passport and marriage certificate, as well as attempts to be registered in constituencies where they do not reside.
She said the complaints that many persons are forced to make several trips to the constituency branch offices to be registered is due to their refusal to heed simple rules including a proper dress code.
Last week, the NNP held a press conference in which it expressed a number of concerns with the Electoral Office such as problems in the registration process, the length of time people have to wait to be registered and the robbery of two computer Central Processing Units, two scanners and two cameras in St. Paul’s that service the St. George North East and South East Constituencies.
The Opposition is fearful that the stolen machines may compromise the electoral process and also has serious concerns regarding the sitting Supervisor of Elections alluding that she may be politically bias to the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration.
Benoit said it is unfortunate that taxpayers would have paid for the equipment only to have them stolen.
She spoke of being in constant contact with the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) for updates on the situation.
She reiterated that the stolen machines will in no way compromise the integrity of the electoral process.
NNP’s Caretaker for the Town of St. George, Nicholas Steele said that a delegation from the party recently visited the Electoral Office in St. Lucia and were informed that a stole computer can compromise the electoral process.
However, talk show host, George Grant of “Sundays with George Grant” contacted the St. Lucian officials and they denied making any such statement to the NNP delegation but informed them that it was impossible for any such thing to happen due to the loss of a computer.
Assistant Supervisor of Elections, Benedict Newton used the press conference to remind the population that the Parliamentary Elections Office is only accountable to the office of the Governor General and no one else.
Both the NDC and NNP are widely regarded as the two main political parties on the island.