Election observers make some recommendations

THE HAGUE–The international observers at St. Maarten’s election and the Electoral Council have come up with a few small recommendations to improve the operations at the polling stations.

A number of points were brought up during the evaluation meeting with the nine international election observers and a representative of the St. Maarten Electoral Council hosted by Central Voting Bureau head Jason Rogers the day after the election.

To begin with, not all polling stations were well accessible for physically-challenged persons. It was further noted that the process to count the votes seemed somewhat complicated. A short guideline for the counting of the votes was suggested, as well as a simplification of the necessary forms in the counting process.

The idea was brought forward to make the policy clear regarding voters’ taking a photo of the completed voting ballot. There should also be a clear policy regarding the refusal of voters who did not have their voting card with them when they showed up to vote. The importance of continued training of personnel of the polling stations was emphasised.

Other recommendations included the implementation of a second and, if needed, third row of voters at the polling stations, and an evaluation of the 200-metre principle regarding the presence of political parties outside the polling station, which the observers found to be applied extremely strictly at times.

It was also noted that it might be worthwhile to exchange election observers within the Kingdom on a structural basis. Rogers pointed out that the mutual cooperation has already improved and that a meeting with electoral authorities from throughout the Kingdom took place in Curaçao in November last year.

The points were mentioned in a report that Member of the First Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Meta Meijer and Member of the Second Chamber Alexander Pechtold released about their visit to St. Maarten last week.

Meijer and Pechtold were part of the team of international observers, which also comprised representatives of the Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the Civil Registries of Curaçao and Aruba.

The international observers had much praise for the manner in which the elections were organised and took place. “Everyone involved on all levels, including the members of the police and Royal Marechaussee who saw to it that the policy of having political parties stay away at least 200 metres from the polling station was kept, did their work in an exceptional manner,” stated Meijer and Pechtold.

The observers expressed appreciation for the “maximum freedom of movement” that they were given to monitor the election process, including the visit to all polling stations. They noted that while they were able to monitor the election itself, they could not monitor the process leading up to the election and the phase after the election. However, the observers were extensively briefed on the election process on Sunday, February 25, the day before the election.

The observers were present the entire Election Day, Monday February 26, from the early morning hours until the late-night hours. They left for the Government Administration Building at 6:00am to be present at the departure of the members of the voting bureaus to the polling stations.

Subsequently, the observers split up in four teams. The teams visited the 20 polling stations twice on Election Day. Each of the four teams selected a polling station where they attended the vote count after the closing of the polls. On completion of the counting of the votes, the teams went to the location of the Central Voting Bureau at the Parliament Building.

Besides the personnel of the polling station and the Central Voting Bureau, the observers also expressed appreciation for the members of the St. Maarten Police Force and the supporting police officers and members of the Royal Marechaussee from the Netherlands who assisted on Election Day. The observers noted the good cooperation between the police officers, their dedication and willingness to work very long hours.

Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/74333-election-observers-make-some-recommendations