PHILIPSBURG--The colour blue was awarded to the Social Reform Party (SRP) of Jacinto Mock by the luck of the draw at Friday’s public hearing of the Central Voting Bureau. SRP and United St. Maarten (US) both had requested blue as their parties’ designated colour on the ballot for the August 29 Parliamentary Elections.
Article 36, section II, of the Electoral Law stipulates that if more than one party request the same colour, the awarding of the colour will be decided “by faith.” Faith took the form on Friday of two slips of white paper – one marked “SRP” and another “US.”
These were individually followed by a member of the bureau and placed into a shiny silver pint container with a plastic lid. The container was shaken, the lid removed and one of the slips removed by the bureau member. The slip of paper folded in quarters was opened to reveal “SRP” – the party to which the colour blue was awarded.
US party, led by independent Member of Parliament Frans Richardson, had the opportunity to select another colour from the ministerial decree that established the colours to be used for the elections. The party selected cyan (a greenish-blue colour). Other available colours were yellow, brown, black and magenta.
All parties had submitted their preferred colours to the bureau on Nomination Day on July 11. Five parties – United People’s (UP) party, One St. Maarten People’s Party (OSPP), US party, Democratic Party (DP) and National Alliance (NA), opted to re-submit their colour requests to the bureau at the public hearing. Only SRP opted not to resubmit, as its request for blue still stood.
Four parties received their requested colours without a hitch – UP green, OSPP purple, DP red, and NA white.
The bureau’s five members all voted unanimously to award each colour to each party.
Each party will have its designated colour as the background of the party’s slate of candidates on the ballot. Colours are used to differentiate the parties to voters. The parties also use the colours in their campaign materials.
In the case of blue, US party, which is contesting an election for the first time, same as SRP, already has been using a shade of blue in its campaign material. The party will now have to decide if there is time to adjust its campaign material and at what financial cost that will come.
At the end of the hearing, Richardson approached the bureau to voice his discontent with the way the colour selection had been conducted. He told Rogers he was miffed about Rogers’ statement that requested colours would be awarded to parties that had used them in the past election.
Richardson said this was erroneous, because the August 29 Parliamentary Elections will be the first such elections for the country. The September 2010 Early Election was for an expanded Island Council. Those 15 Island Council members became MPs based on transition regulations on October 10, 2010, when St. Maarten attained the status of country within the kingdom.
Rogers only had read from the electoral law that mandated the awarding of colours. He had explained earlier in the hearing that the law stated if two parties requested the same colour, the one to which the colour had been assigned in the last election would be given preference for the colour. However, SRP and US were both new parties.
It is precisely because these are the first parliamentary elections that the bureau held the public hearing to award the colours to all parties contesting the elections. All parties had to request their colours, just like all parties, whether they were in a past election or not, had to have their slates of candidates endorsed by voters two weeks ago.
Richardson was told by the bureau that he could file a formal complaint if he had an issue. He declined to do so, but he verbally protested that his party had not received the list of the approved colours for the elections. A bureau representative showed him the list and informed him that it had been in the package the party had received from the bureau at the start of the process.
Mock said after the hearing that he would ask the Central Voting Bureau what could be done to halt the use of blue by the US party. “I don’t feel like sharing,” he told the press.
The party awarded the colour blue should be the only party allowed to use that colour and any shade of it, he said. His preference for the colour blue was known from the time his party was registered with the Electoral Council. Mock said he had informed officials every step of the way he wanted blue as his party’s colour.
When Richardson launched the US party in December, he was already using a light blue that has since become his party’s signature colour.
1 to 6
Prior to the awarding of the colours, the six parties’ slates were numbered, also “by faith” as dictated by law. The numerals one to six were each written on a separate slip of paper and a similar process was followed with the initials of the six parties. The numeral slips were placed in one silver can and the party initials in another.
Two members of the bureau on either side of the table in Dr. A.C. Wathey Legislative Hall shook the containers and removed the lids for the selection to take place. First a number was blindly selected, then same was done for a slip with initials.
The first number out was “six” and the party was OSPP. That process continued until each slates had been given a number. US party will be slate number one on the ballot, NA two, UP three, DP four, SRP five and OSPP six.
Together with the list number and colour, the parties can inform their supporters about the distinguishing elements of their slates on the ballot.
Friday’s public hearing was held after the bureau verified that no eligible voter had filed any appeal with the Court of First Instance against the bureau’s approval of the six parties’ slates on Tuesday. By law, voters could have filed appeals against the bureau’s decision.