The turnout during the first few hours of voting for yesterday’s local government elections appeared to be negligible, despite months of campaigning by contestants and education efforts by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to rouse greater engagement.
At many polling stations in Georgetown, on the East Bank of Demerara, and in Berbice, only a handful of voters showed up, although some areas did see a large turnout.
The Campbellville Secondary School was desolate when Stabroek News visited just after 8 am. The Information Clerk and the PPP Commissioner Sase Gunraj were seated near the gate. Soon, persons began trickling in. The Information Clerk assisted by ensuring that their names were on the voters’ list and also identified their polling station.
APNU candidate for the constituency Astell Collins was observed fetching in an elderly woman who had come to vote.
Officials noted that the voter turnout was very low but expressed hope that the numbers would improve as the day progressed.
One voter reported to this newspaper that the voting process was simple and short. She said that after a polling official verified her name, address, occupation and ID card number at the polling station, the assistant presiding officer demonstrated how the voting was to be done.
Polling stations along the East Bank of Demerara also recorded low voter turnout during the morning hours, as persons trickled in to cast their ballots.
Stabroek News visited several polling stations between Houston and Craig, on the East Bank of Demerara, where many almost deserted compounds were observed.
Of the locations visited, Diamond had the highest voter turnout as the information officer at the Diamond Secondary School reported that there had been a large number of persons casting their votes early yesterday morning before making their way to work.
She also told Stabroek News that in her estimation she would have seen at least 200 persons casting their ballots as of midday yesterday. Based on observations by this newspaper, persons continued to turn up, arriving in some cases with members of their household and in others individually.
The situation was significantly different at the other polling stations, where voters trickled in and in some instances there were more GECOM staffer than voters.
At a polling station located at the Houston Secondary School, this newspaper was told that only one person had showed up when the gates for the compound were opened at 6 yesterday morning. It was noted too that as of midday, they had seen less than 50 persons voting out of hundreds who were on the voters’ list.
Those working at polling stations at the Agricola Primary School, Peter’s Hall Primary School, Success Elementary in Eccles and Grove Primary School reported similar occurrences, with one contending that the low turnout could have been a result of persons having to work yesterday.
Meanwhile, both GECOM staffers and voters reported that the voting process went smoothly. One elderly man who spoke with this newspaper after casting his ballot was pleased to share that the process had turned out to be faster than he had expected.
Rita Joseph-Barker, who cast her ballot at the Diamond Primary School, said she had a similar experience and she described the entire process as having been very easy.
Similarly, GECOM staffers who spoke with this newspaper were pleased to report that they had not encountered any major difficulties.
Business as usual
Despite a total of 94,181 persons being eligible to vote at the 263 polling stations set up across Region Six, the majority of them went about their business in the county as per normal with little regard for yesterday’s polls as was the case in other parts of the country.
Although voters trickled into the polling stations throughout the day in the various constituencies, there did appear to be large turnouts in the Whim/Bloomfield and the Number 52 – 74 Neighbourhood constituencies, the latter being the largest constituency in the country.
In the New Amsterdam and East Canje Berbice district, each of the polling locations that were visited by Stabroek News had less than three persons at one time.
At around 10 am at the All Saints Primary School in New Amsterdam, there was no one present to cast a vote.
Stabroek News was told at that polling station, “People are coming one by one.”
Meanwhile, Regional Chairman David Armogan, after voting in New Amsterdam, stated that the process was a simple one.
However, he noted, that he was surprised at the low turnout yesterday morning and pointed out that it may be due to the fact that persons had to work. He said, “I hope maybe sometime during the day their employers would allow them to go and vote. I hope that would be the case.”
Armogan noted that at the last general elections, there were long lines at almost every polling station within the region.
Gobin Harbhajan, the Prime Minister’s Representative in Region Six, after voting yesterday said that he was excited to see the turnout of voters comprising mostly youths. “Young people now know they have a democratic right to elect person with good standards and community interest at heart to represent them,” he said.
Mohanlall Manilall, 21, who voted in the Whim area, said that he took less than ten minutes at the polling station. He noted that he came out to vote because he believes that every citizen should. “I want to see development in my area,” he said.
Taresh Ragwen yesterday morning was present with his wife, Amanda Sukwa, in the Whim area to cast their vote. The couple noted that the entire process took both of them 15 minutes to complete.
Acting Commander of ‘B’ Division Paul Langevine, when contacted, stated that there were no reports of any issue in the district.
Additionally, he noted, that ranks who were not able to vote as yet were posted to areas closest to where they can vote. While others, who had to vote out of the division left early Sunday afternoon, so as to be able to vote early and return to the division.
Peter Tambron, APNU’s candidate for the Plegtanker area, yesterday stated that persons in the area rushed to the lone polling station around 10 am yesterday. “Everything is going so well so far,” he said yesterday afternoon.
Meanwhile, a resident from Mara Village, East Bank Berbice, where there is no Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC), was present in Plegtanker Village, where for the first time residents are able to vote at the Local Government Elections.
The man, Glendon Lewis, 58, said, he would also have been glad to cast his vote yesterday. He said, “With NDC you will get more development,” he said, while noting that Mara has a Community Development Council.
The man, who is originally from West Coast Berbice, noted that as a youth he could never remember experiencing local government elections and as a result he would have been happy to be able to vote yesterday.