Higher voter turnout for Lengua/Indian Walk by-election

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

From left: Keith Roopnarine, Deonarine Roopnarine, and Yukti Cindy Roopnarine show their fingers after voting at the St Croix Community Centre, during the Lengua/Indian Walk by-election on June 17. – Photo by Ayanna Kinsale

Preliminary statistics from the Election and Boundaries Commission (EBC) indicated there was an elector turnout of 39.1 per cent for the district – up from 36.3 per cent in August 2023. There were 8,465 people eligible to vote. EBC’s chief elections officer Fern Narcis-Scope told Newsday that up to the afternoon of June 17 voting went smoothly.

“So far we have had minimal reports of any irregularities. Polling stations opened at 6 am as expected and voting has been somewhat slow and steady in both electoral districts. I understand that we’re just around 20 per cent or so electorate but, as you know, customarily, the electorate is expected to pick up towards the afternoon.” She said the main irregularity they received complaints about was that some candidates’ mock stations were too close to the polling stations.

“The police would have assisted in helping establish the 100-yard limit and interacted with whoever was in the mock polling station.”

Voters also told Newsday they had no issues with the process and were able to cast their votes within a few minutes of arriving at the polling stations.

A polling officer checks the names of voters before they vote during the Lengua/Indian Walk by-elections at the St Michael’s AC Primary School, Princes Town on June 17. – Photo by Ayanna Kinsale

Many of them also voted in the 2023 election which ended in a tie.

Keith Roopnarine said he had no issues with having to return to the polls because “that’s we right.”

There were also those who abstained from the last election but stained their finger this year, hoping their vote could make the difference. Nelcia Laudat-Neale of St Croix said last year’s election was the first she ever missed in her life and was disappointed with its result. “I felt a little embarrassed when I heard there was a tie and so many times they had to go back and forth checking. So I said, you know what, that one vote could have changed it for somebody so I’m not going to miss out again.”

At the time, she was confident the election would have a definitive winner. Gathered at the office of PNM’s candidate Autly Granthume were scores of supporters, his campaign coordinator Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon and Local Government Minister Faris Al-Rawi.

After counting figures that came in since the close of polls at 6 pm from polling agents, Al-Rawi declared it a victory in the PNM’s favour around 9.05 pm. He said their tally shows the party won by a 747-vote margin, receiving 2,083 votes compared to the UNC’s Nicole Gopaul who received 1,336 votes.

In 2023, Gopaul and Granthume tied for the seat. Initial counts placed Granthume on top with 1,430 votes compared to Gopaul’s 1,425. However, at the end of two recounts, each candidate received 1,428 votes. The EBC rejected a special ballot which the UNC claimed was a vote for Gopaul that would have broken the deadlock.

Despite mounting a challenge at the courts for it to be counted, the UNC’s matter was dismissed and fresh elections were called.