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An honest election

It is an accepted position that a society only enacts laws because man generally does not have the capacity to do the right thing — at least as defined by that group. The major challenge for law makers in any part of the world though, is that laws often come after the fact.

Laws generally are only put in place when a society and/or those who lead its affairs are concerned about some practice that is occurring within its domain, or has occurred elsewhere and is likely to reach its borders and have a negative impact.

But within any society, there are those who are so “smart” that most of the time they are well ahead of the thinking of those who draft and enact laws, and certainly for a while, sometimes a considerable period, those who enforce the laws.

Barbados is in election mode and currently just about everything that occurs can in some way be linked to some vote-catching activity — even if the politicians pretend they have some higher cause at the centre of their thoughts — and it is time for those who have responsibility for the conduct of elections and the regulation of the society to maintain some semblance of fairness to be alert.

Last election, in one St. Michael riding in particular, there were widespread allegations of vote buying. We heard a not insignificant number of reports that voters were asked to show their identification cards to party officials, who checked the voters list to make sure they were in the right location, then handed them back with $100 bills neatly folded under them.

We can’t provide evidence that this actually occurred, but the number of reports would have made even the most trusting at least a little curious. But now compare that with the report out of Trinidad and Tobago yesterday that one party had imported 10,000 cellphones with the intention of “buying” next week’s Tobago House of Assembly elections.

According to one newspaper, the intention is to distribute the phones and some cash to voters on or before election day, with the promise of additional money after voting, if the cellphone camera is used to show that the vote was placed in the right box.

Since the voting booth is a place of almost sacred privacy, and it is possible for a voter to leave one cellphone with an official and utilise another within the booth, one does not have to stretch the imagination to see how effective such a plan, or some variation of it can be for a less then honest candidate or party.

We have already spoken about how modern communications technology has left our election machinery in the dark ages, and of the need to bring everything relating to the conduct of polls up to date and charges such as that being made in Tobago should serve as a wake up call here in Barbados.

We are not living in utopia and we have not been known for breeding saints and it would therefore be advisable for those with responsibility for the conduct of elections to be acutely aware of the avenues available for the unscrupulous to “steal” an election.

Even the casual observer should have recognised by now that while Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has not yet called elections, all over the country persons involved in electioneering are showing clearly that there are mindful of the very high stakes in this race. There is a Government to win or lose and given all the talk about a one-term Government, while those seeking a seat in Parliament might insist on propriety and honesty, there is no guarantee that those who work for them will all be guided by the same standards.

All that having been said: May the best man/woman/party win!

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