The announcement by Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs that people can pick up their voting cards on set days at the Administration Building (see Monday paper) caused quite a stir. It sparked a late Sunday response from the United St. Maarten Resilient Movement (USRM) questioning why Postal Services St. Maarten (PSS) is being sidelined in this manner.
It seems the plan is for PSS to still distribute those left afterwards. This pertinent fact was omitted in the original release, contributing to the confusion.
Fact is that PSS has experienced significant problems getting cards to the right persons, due to poor street and number signage, people residing elsewhere than their registered address, etcetera, especially following the widespread displacement of inhabitants by Hurricane Irma. The devastating cyclone also destroyed PSS’ former building and much of its vehicle fleet, so the government-owned mail company has been operating with a considerably smaller capacity due to financial constraints ever since.
In the recent past this led to thousands of undeliverable voting cards ending up back with the Civil Registry at the last minute for citizens to collect theirs even on Election Day. Under these circumstances, switching the system around in the sense of first having the cards collected and then distributing what remains actually makes sense.
However, the way it was initially communicated leaves a lot to be desired. The question may be asked too whether such a move could not have been discussed a bit more broadly with stakeholders like Parliament and registered political parties beforehand.
There are some additional considerations, including the elderly and disabled who must now conceivably leave home twice to collect their voting card and to cast their ballot. Authorising others to do either or both for them is a possible solution, but the process must be clearly and repeatedly explained well ahead of time.
Another potential issue is transport cost, because if somebody needs to take two buses to get to the Administration Building a return trip will not be cheap. Providing free shuttle service from central locations and community centres might be a worthwhile suggestion.
The main thing is that PSS will reportedly still deliver what is not picked up, so it turns out there is no reason for alarm.