The final day of voting for new executive of the PNM take place today and the chairman of the party's Election Supervisory Committee (ESC) Anthony Roberts says the identity of voters will remain secret.
Roberts's assurance comes after a new concern was raised by candidate for political leader Karen Nunez-Tesheira.
In an interview on Saturday, Roberts told Newsday, “Members are free to vote for the candidate of their choice without any repercussions after Sunday.”
The PNM’s 50th convention, at the Queen's Park Savannah, takes place on Sunday, and voters will have the opportunity of casting their ballot for one of three candidates vying for political leadership, including the incumbent Dr Keith Rowley. On November 26 and 27, voters were hampered by bad weather.
Roberts said members should have no fear of being identified and punished or rewarded as Nunez-Tesheira’s team has been contending.
He assured members they could cast their vote for any of the three candidates for political leadership or any of the other contested positions without any fear of repercussion. Attorney Ronald Boynes is also contesting the post of political leader.
On November 30, Nunez-Tesheira fired off another missive to Roberts raising concern that the number which voters are given by the polling agent upon entry into the polling station is retained and placed into the ballot box with that person’s election booklet.
Through her campaign manager and attorney Peter Taylor, Nunez-Tesheira is contending this process compromises the principle of anonymity and secrecy upon which the internal election is predicated. Roberts acknowledged that is the process, but assured the voter would not be identified.
“The consecutive numbers will be noted on the book but the leaves of the sheet would be detached for the checking (of the ballots) so nobody will know which book they came from.
“They are all perforated and will be detached in order to count.”
On this basis, Roberts said, Nunez-Tesheira had no grounds for concern and welcomed her challenge for the leadership.
He also welcomed concerns and queries, pointing out “after all they are all PNM members.”
He said he is satisfied that the process is above board and transparent.
“Registered members are free to cast their vote for the candidate of their choice, without reward or punishment as Ms Nunez-Tesheira has implied.
“What we do, we do above the table, not below.”
Nunez-Tesheira has questioned the three days of voting over a nine-day period, the storing of ballots during that period, the identification of voters, as well as the ability of the election committee to cross reference a voter by the number assigned.
She lost a legal challenge to have the poll postponed before the High Court and Court of Appeal.
In the latest letter, also written on behalf of Kenneth Butcher and Bishop Victor Phillip who are on her slate, Taylor claimed they have been inundated with complaints from members who voted on November 26 and 27.
Roberts noted that the storage of the ballots have been clearly identified in the guidelines and they are proceeding with that process.
On the third and final day of the convention on December 4, he said counting of ballots cast on November 26 and 27 will begin at 8 am at the Woodbrook Youth Facility.
Taylor questioned the propriety of counting ballots simultaneously while votes are being cast.
He said it is the norm for ballots to be counted after the voting process is completed and the simultaneous counting while voting is incompatible with transparency and accountability.
Voting on Sunday will also begin at 8 am and end at 1 pm.
Immediately following the close of the polls on December 4, counting of ballots cast that day will begin and Roberts said they are hoping to announce the leader and executive that will oversee the party for the next two to four years.
Calls have been made for the voting period to be extended, given that the adverse weather would have affected people from casting their votes on November 26 and 27.
Just over 12,000 members cast their votes from a list of 105,894 registered voters.
Roberts said he understands it is a short period for members to vote, but encouraged them to come early and make use of the five hours set aside for this exercise.
Twelve of 16 positions, including that of political leader, are up for grabs. Four of the positions have already been declared as they are unopposed.
The PNM’s golden convention is expected to begin at 7 am for registration, and expected to end around 7 pm. Rowley is expected to address the convention, which will also feature an evening of parang, entertainment from some of the country’s top artistes, as well as a kids zone, food court.