Association president defends location of polling stations
I wish to clear up some inaccuracies and misinformation that appeared in a letter headlined “A ballot box lament for Port de Grave” by Moses Barrett, Spaniard’s Bay, which appeared in the Tuesday, May 31 edition of The Compass.
The letter alleged that the members of the executive of the Port de Grave district Liberal association had undue influence on determining the location of polling stations for the nomination contest that was held May 18 to pick the Liberal candidate for the district. This was not the case. The only person who had any input in the process was I, the president of the association.
The following are the events leading up to the vote on May 18.
I was telephoned by the Liberal party office on Friday, May 6, and told that the party was going to call the nomination on Monday, May 9, and that about one or two places to hold a vote will be needed. The first thing done was to check the constitution for the criteria for voting and the placement of voting stations.
The constitution states: “ voting shall be by secret ballot at polling stations strategically located within the district.” That was vague, so the next considerations were: What was the normal practice in the past? And how to ensure fairness to both the candidates, and their sup- porters, while working within the time constraints dictated by the constitution.
The nomination was called by the party on May 9, and it closed on May 13 at 5 pm. Until the nomination had closed there was no official word on how many people were seeking the nomination, or if there would even be a need for a vote.
A call to the party office at 5:30 pm informed me that two candidates were seeking the nomination — a resident of the community of Port de Grave, and a resident of the community of Shearstown. The vote was to take place five days later on May 18, and polling stations needed to be arranged for the vote.
This did not allow much time to inform the candidates and to meet the deadline for advertisements in the local paper. Decisions needed to be made quickly on where to locate polling stations that will be fair to both candidates and their supporters.
The decision was as follows: a polling station would be located in each of the home communities of the candidates, Port de Grave and Shearstown. Next, a polling station would be located at St. Andrews Club in Upper Island Cove, because it was at the end of the district and it was located just a couple hundred meters from the boundary with Bishop’s Cove, and hence serv- ing both communities.
The next polling station would be the town hall in Clarke’s Beach, because it was located near the road servicing North River and hence could serve that area as well as Clarke’s Beach and Makinsons.
The next location would be somewhere in the Bay Roberts, Coley’s Point area to serve those communities and the part of the town of Spaniard’s Bay that was in the district. A couple of places within the community of Bay Roberts were considered, but these places were unavailable for rent on polling day.
The Loyal Orange Lodge in Coley’s Point was chosen because of familiarity with that building, knowledge of the layout, and ready access to it and that it had everything that was needed to conduct the vote.
This made five polling stations, more than at any time in the past. Next, the candidates needed to be notified so that they could pass this information along to their supporters, and hopefully, meet the print deadline to advertise this information in this paper, this already being Friday and the paper due out on Monday, two days before the vote was to take place.
The next day was Saturday, May 14, the day of the retirement dinner for Roland Butler, a great opportunity for the announcement of the polling station locations and for the two candidates to inform the guests themselves.
So, when Mr. Barrett was informed at the dinner by some members of the executive that they were not a part of the decisionmaking process in the location of the polling stations, they were being totally honest and straightforward.
Further, to the allusion to the lack of location of a polling station in a particular community was due to a member of the executive residing in that community or not, is inaccurate. For example, the community of Makinsons had no polling station, even though a resident of Makinsons serves on the executive. There are two residents of Bay Roberts, including myself, who serve on the executive, but there was no polling station in Bay Roberts.
As for the communities of South River and Tilton, which were mentioned in the letter, they are not in the district and hence, no polling stations.
So in conclusion, there was no undue influence by the executive of the district association in the decision of polling station locations, as alluded to by Mr. Barrett. Any criticism of the way it was handled should be directed at me, and not at the entire executive of the Port de Grave Liberal association.
The station locations were chosen as indicated, and I stand by those decisions.