UNC assessing boundary shifts in EBC report

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

How the changes proposed by the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) in its 2024 report may affect electorates and the general election scheduled for next year is still being assessed by those in the field of politics.

The report, which was laid in Parliament on April 12, proposed changes to the boundaries of several constituencies as well as five name changes to “minimise any confusion in the minds of the electorate.”

The Delimitation of Constituencies Rules in the Second Schedule of the Constitution under section 72(1) said: the electorate in any constituency shall not be more than 110 per cent nor be less than 90 per cent of the total electorate of the island divided by the number of constituencies in that island.

In Trinidad, where all the adjustments were made, as determined from the annual list of electors which was published on November 30, 2023, the total electorate was 1,095,080, the permissible upper limit for each constituency was 30,887 and the permissible lower limit was 25,271.

Toco/Sangre Grande, D’Abadie/O’Meara, Caroni Central and Cumuto/Manzanilla were above the upper limit, while Port of Spain North/St Ann’s West, Port of Spain South, San Fernando East, San Fernando West and Pointe-a-Pierre, were below the lower limit.

Polling divisions were either given to or taken away from the nine, thereby affecting nearby constituencies including Tabaquite, La Horquetta/Talparo, Arouca/Maloney, Laventille West, Laventille East/Morvant, Oropouche East and Arima.

The report also proposed name changes to five constituencies on a phased basis. The constituency of Arouca/Maloney would be renamed Trincity/Maloney, D’Abadie/O’Meara to Malabar/Mausica, Lopinot/Bon Air West to Arouca/Lopinot, St Joseph to Aranguez/St Joseph and Pointe-a-Pierre to Claxton Bay.

United National Congress deputy political leader David Lee said the party was still studying the report in-depth to see how the changes could affect the party. The party is also evaluating whether there were significant shifts in the electorate numbers of UNC strongholds and marginal seats compared to the People’s National Movement.

However, as the sitting MP for Pointe-a-Pierre, he expressed concern about the proposed name change of his constituency to Claxton Bay.

“While we are happy for the identification of Claxton Bay, which is a great community, it is just one part of the entire Pointe-a-Pierre constituency. We were wondering about the rationale for not having a double name like the other proposed areas, something like Claxton Bay/ Pointe-a-Pierre.

“And if you wanted to do away with Pointe-a-Pierre, which we feel they shouldn’t, they could have said Claxton Bay/Marabella which would encompass both the north and south of Pointe-a-Pierre.”

He said the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery was at the centre of the area and he hoped the EBC was not trying to eliminate any negative associations with the PNM in the minds of the electorate.

“I don’t know, from a psychological point of view, if there is some political interference. Because when you hear Pointe-a-Pierre, the first thing that comes to mind is the closure of the refinery.”

Also, he said the constituency had been known as Pointe-a-Pierre for decades and believed the name changes could confuse the electorate. He pointed out that in three of the five proposed name changes, one of the previous names was included so people could still make the connection with their area. But it was not so for Pointe-a-Pierre or D’Abadie/O’Meara.

He said the party will have to adjust its campaign strategy in the affected communities to include an education component.

Political analyst Dr Bishu Ragoonath said he had no issues with the proposed name changes as it could mean that the EBC was now taking into consideration the geographical addresses of the electorate.

He said the only impact it would have was the name plates for the MPs in Parliament.

Regarding the shifts in boundaries, he said he had to further evaluate the matter, polling division by polling division, to determine the possible impacts.

“For instance, if a polling division in one constituency was heavily skewed towards one party and you take that polling division and put it in a constituency that is marginal, you will give that party an advantage.”

Attempts to contact several members of the PNM executive for comment proved unsuccessful.

Growth of electorate

In Caroni Central, one polling division with an electorate of 461 was transferred to Tabaquite, reducing the electorate of Caroni Central to 30,844 and increasing the electorate of Tabaquite to 29,589.

In Pointe-a-Pierre, one polling division of 936 electorates was taken from Tabaquite and moved to the constituency, increasing the electorate of Pointe-a-Pierre to 26,030 and decreasing that of Tabaquite to 28,653.

In Cumuto/Manzanilla, one polling division with an electorate of 407 was transferred to La Horquetta/Talparo, reducing the electorate of Cumuto/Manzanilla to 30,550.

In D’Abadie/O’Meara, one polling division of 2,401 electorates was given to Arouca/Maloney, reducing the electorate of D’Abadie/O’Meara to 29,094.

In Port of Spain North/St Ann’s West, one polling division with an electorate of 814 was taken from Laventille West, increasing the electorate to 25,895.

Port of Spain South also received one polling division from Laventille West with an electorate of 1,193, increasing the electorate of Port of Spain South to 25,856 and reducing Laventille West’s electorate to 24,031, which was below the lower limit.

As a result, three polling divisions with electorates of 389, 629 and 308 were transferred from Laventille East/Morvant to Laventille West. That brought the electorate in Laventille East/Morvant to 25,352 and Laventille West to 25,357.

In San Fernando East, two polling Divisions with electorates of 714 and 627 were taken from Oropouche East, bringing the electorate to 26,572.

In San Fernando West, two polling divisions with electorates of 453 and 473 were moved from San Fernando East, increasing the electorate to 25,374 and reducing the electorate of San Fernando East to 25,646.

In Toco/Sangre Grande, one polling division of 2,000 electorates was transferred to Arima, decreasing the electorate to 30,498.

The adjustments will affect the marginal constituencies of San Fernando West, Pointe-a-Pierre, Toco/Sangre Grande and La Horquetta/Talparo.