WEDNESDAY, MAY 23: Both sides in the City of Hamilton elections sought the homeless vote, it was confirmed yesterday.
New Mayor Graeme Outerbridge’s “Team Hamilton” up against the sitting Mayor Charles Gosling and his supporters, both visited the Salvation Army shelter in the run-up to polling day.
Mr Outerbridge said: “We made presentations at the homeless centre explaining the right to vote, rather than going down there and canvassing.
“A lot of them weren’t aware of their right to vote.”
Mr Outerbridge said that – although both sides provided transport for voters on the day – he could not say if homeless voters were given a lift by his team.
He added: “Both teams had transport provided on the day, which is common practice. I really couldn’t pass comment (on whether homeless people were transported) because I don’t have specific knowledge.”
Mr Gosling confirmed his supporters also took part in the exercise to remind people to have the right to vote.
He added: “A group of people came in the same vehicle from the homeless centre and voted. We didn’t do any transportation for the people involved.”
According to Government information, anyone who was registered at an address within the boundaries of Hamilton and St George’s for a Parliamentary election was eligible to vote in municipal elections.
Before April last year, only residential ratepayers, business owners and property holders in the municipalities were eligible to vote, with multiple votes based on how many properties an individual owned.
A change in the law by the House of Assembly made provision for “one man, one vote”, giving people living inside the boundaries inside the corporations the right to vote.
Salvation Army Major Shawn Critch said: “Generally speaking, we would not be involved because we consider ourselves to be non-political.”
But he said one group had been given the thumbs-up by junior staff to talk to residents, so in the interests of fairness, both sides in the election were allowed to speak to the homeless shelter residents.
In an interview with Hott FM’s Sherri Simmons yesterday, former Premier Dr Ewart Brown listed the change in legislation as one of his highlight achievements as leader.
He said: “Then I saw the results of the election… just giving the people the right to vote causes such a dramatic shift. It tends to do so. It happened in South Africa.”
Mr Outerbridge won the May 10 election with 109 votes (55.3 per cent) compared to Mr Gosling’s 88 votes (44.6 per cent).
He was joined at City Hall by Aldermen Gwyneth Rawlins, Donald Smith and Carlton Simmons.
Also elected, as Common Councillors, were Roseann Edwards, lawyer Larry Scott, former PLP MP George Scott and Anthony Davis.