The lines at the Gulf View Community Centre. Photo: Trevor Watson (Trinidad Express)
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Port of Spain – 6 p.m. came and went but the voting continued because there were hundreds of people still lined up at some polling stations.
Shortly before the official close of polls, there were as many as 200 people still waiting in line to get to the voting booth at the Gulf View Community Centre in the marginal constituency of San Fernando West.
From observations by the candidates and people who went to the polling stations today, the turnout was larger than the 2015 general election, when the electorate was 1 082 279, and 67.27 per cent of the electorate came out to vote.
This time around, the electorate grew to 1 143 136.
There were sporadic problems across Trinidad.
In Point Fortin, there were reports of a couple being turned away from a polling station because they were wearing yellow coloured outfits.
The Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) issued a release advising that no one should be prevented from voting based on the colour of their clothing.
In St Augustine, there were complaints that a police road block prevented people from getting to the polling station at the St Augustine High School.
And the Gulf View Community Centre, it was torture for some voters.
The long lines and slow pace of voting was the result of the social distancing and sanitising procedures adopted by the EBC.
The EBC said anyone in the line at that time, would be allowed to vote.
Gulf View pressure
Multiple reports of long lines and delayed voting times have come out of the Gulf View community centre this morning, where three polling stations are located for the San Fernando West seat.
At 8:30 a.m. complaints of a “bottleneck”, of voters were reported by Agent for UNC candidate Sean Sobers, Jayanti Lutchmedial. According to Lutchmedial, lengthy lines and voting times sent away a number of eager voters from the polls this morning. This delay, she said, was likely a result of COVID-19 measures such as distancing and mask-wearing , ombined with a poor layout and lack of information.
“I’ve seen quite a bit of people appearing to be disgruntled and leaving the area. We are hoping they will return but we do feel that the slow pace of voting is causing people to leave the divisions without voting. It is causing a bit of an interference. I have spoken to the presiding officers and asked them what the issue is. One in particular is a real bottleneck. There is a staircase upstairs where people are voting and they are waiting on the staircase for quite a long period of time,” she said.
The centre which houses the 3880, 3881 and 3 876 polling stations, she said, saw an impressive number of voters for the morning period. She added that discussions were held with the presiding officer for the area, who ensured her that adjustments would be made to accommodate voters.
“The presiding officers have been very helpful, they said that they would try to speak to the officers and see how much they can go faster. At the end of the day with social distancing the need to sanitiSe and everybody being masked and needing to speak to each other while wearing a mask and all that, it is causing some delay. I do believe that a better layout here at the polling station would probably help with the comfort of the persons who are coming here to exercise their franchise,” she said.
Following this, the Express received multiple reports from frustrated voters lined outside of the community centre.
One voter told the Express that she had taken the two-hour allotted period from her place of employment to complete her voting activities. At 4 p.m. she said, approximately 200 people were still lined at the entrance of the centre having still not gained entry.
“I have been standing here for two hours. People in the other lines are going through quickly. Approximately 200 people are here in this line,” she said.
This election campaign has been unique because of the existence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic has created a new style of campaigning where the public meetings have been virtual, making it difficult to assess the mood of the electorate, whose feelings in the past used to be gauged from their attendance at meetings and their spontaneous responses to the various platforms. (Trinidad Express)