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How important/valid is your vote?

PHILIPSBURG:--- I know before hand that this topic will be somewhat controversial but allow me to express what I saw on election night when the time came to start counting thE ballots.

Throughout the campaign season, many candidates were faced with hearing from most persons just how disgruntled they became and were actually considering not going out to vote. It was difficult, but all parties tried our best in explaining just how important voting is and why every vote matters.

While at the Dutch Quarter Community Center I saw something that I honestly couldn't believe. The bin was emptied and the ballots were being sorted, by the party.

After the sorting by party, I saw the unbelievable. One, tallying the ballots started sorting the ballots on the floor. Now to many, people would say this is not a big deal. But think for a moment, how would you feel, if you saw the St. Maarten flag dragged or placed on the floor? Our voting ballots are a valid piece of document and should be treated as such. Not placed on the floor, walked on, or sat on.

What was equally important was the amount of times (5) it took the group of new, young persons to get the ballots counted and the thought came to mind.

Again while on the campaign trail, we've heard sentiments stating the older heads should go home, Sarah, William, Theo and others. Claims that we need a new fresh breed of people, in government it's time to give young people a chance.

Trust me when I say I understand, and all for the need for innovative, forward thinking persons, who indeed have this country's best interest at heart. But understand the correlation between seeing those individuals who were tasked with the counting of the country's ballots not only disrespect the sacred notion behind voting but due to various elements including not being seasoned were counting and recounting the ballots until after 2:00 am September 27, 2016.

Some recommendations to the main voting bureau.

- hold an informative session with potential persons who will be tasked with tallying the ballots on election day, so that they clearly understand the rules and the task ahead.
* this would include what is allowed at ALL polling stations.
* create a separate lane for senior citizens so that they get preferential treatment when going to vote at ALL polling stations.
* a no telephone, video policy should be strictly enforced and adhered to at ALL polling stations.
* rotating of the tallying personnel between two shifts. Understanding that those individuals who were there from early election morning would be physically tired and the need for fresh pairs of eyes would be needed to go though all ballots.
- give information sessions to the population explaining how to vote, what is needed to go and vote and what makes a vote invalid.
- give information session explaining to the individual party representatives what their role if any is at the polling stations when viewing the counts.
- have a mix of seasoned and new tallying personnel to ensure the effectiveness, orderly and timely counting of the voting ballots.

On a forward thinking note, I sincerely hope that the Parliament and the Government of St. Maarten look keenly into the idea of electronic voting. This in and of itself we can only hope should do away with such things as invalid votes.

Marinka Gumbs

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