Last update: 07-Dec-2013 3:12 am
Saturday, December 07, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Mystery still over media’s polling figures
Members of the media and political scientists are saying they got the wrong figure of a 26 per cent turnout in the recent local government elections from Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) returning officers out in the field on election day. Many media houses reported on election night on October 21 and the following day there was a low turnout of 26 per cent. The EBC later released a statement showing that to be inaccurate, saying there was actually a high turnout of 43.6 per cent.
The EBC said it got its figures from returning officers and at no time did it issue a statement there was a turnout of 26 per cent. EBC chief elections officer Ramesh Nanan, describing the process, said yesterday political parties had their own polling agents at polling stations on election day who supplied their parties with figures. The T&T Guardian sought to trace the origin of the inaccurate figures but it remained unknown where the figures came from.
The 26 per cent became an issue when TV 6 Morning Edition host Fazeer Mohammed told Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley on a recent show there was an impression the PNM had a hollow victory and it was the result of a low turnout. PNM PRO Senator Faris Al-Rawi, repeating what Rowley told Mohammed, told the T&T Guardian yesterday: “We never, ever put out any figure other than 43.6 per cent.
“We discussed nothing and committed to no figures on election night. But we observed the media accepting and reporting figures coming in without identifying the source.” Al-Rawi said the PNM spent a couple days working out the voter-turnout and was able to confirm the number with the EBC. Inshan Ishmael of the Independent Liberal Party (ILP) said at no time did the party ever release any statement to the media saying the turnout was 26 per cent.
“We don’t assume the responsibility of the EBC.” He said no ILP polling agent was authorised to give out any figures to anyone and, therefore, the 26 per cent did not come from them. He said the ILP, in fact, was led on election night to believe the voter turnout was 26 per cent. “We were at the head office and the first time we heard it was on the media. Several media houses were reporting it and we thought it was accurate.
“But we were still tabulating the figures and by next morning we realised something was wrong,” he added. Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal, Minister of the Environment and Water Resources Ganga Singh and Works Minister Dr Suruj Rambachan could not be reached for comment yesterday. Sampson Nanton, executive producer at Guardian Media Ltd’s CNC 3, said it was political commentator Michael Harris who first mentioned the 26 per cent on a live panel discussion on the station on election night.
Nanton said Harris was questioning the figures which came in from returning officers in the field. He said other media stations took up the figure. Political scientist Dr Hamid Ghany, a deputy managing director and managing editor of GML, was the moderator of the panel on CNC 3 that night. He said the panellists believed they were working with EBC results. “All the media houses reported it,” he pointed out.
Ghany dismissed the notion there was some conspiracy on the part of the media to create the impression that one party had the edge over the others in the elections because of a low voter turnout. Nanan said he had no knowledge of any figures leaving the commission that was in the vicinity of 26 per cent. He said the EBC released preliminary figures in the 40s and its final figure was 43.6 per cent.
Nanan said counting was done at the polling stations after an election was over and the presiding officer took the figures to the returning officers. He said there were 53 such officers out in the field on October 21 and the returning officers then sent the figures to the central electoral office. Nanan said the different political parties have polling agents witnessing the counting of the votes, as well. He said those agents took the figures to their parties.
He could not confirm or deny whether polling agents gave the media the 26 per cent figure.
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