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From the Supervisor of Elections – Vol II No 1: The Cross
Office of the AG
From the Supervisor of Elections
Vol II No 1: The Cross
The scenario that is unfolding in the United States of America is, unfortunately, very familiar to us. From 2011, in all of the elections we have had, we have seen petitions from dissatisfied losers; and the High Court has been asked to intervene.
There have been 9 challenges. Mark Brantley, Robelto Hector, Marcella Liburd, Konris Maynard, Steve Wrensford, Kenny Douglas, Leon Natta, Terrence Drew and Ian Liburd all brought challenges. Of these, only that of Mark Brantley was successful and resulted in the forced voiding of a seat. The other 8 petitions started but were withdrawn. Sadly, eight of them named the Supervisor of Elections as a respondent thereby highlighting the role of that Officer in the conduct of elections. That is why I have taken on the role of public education in the way that I have.
The petition of Constituency of St Christopher 1 brings into focus the concept of a perfectly executed ballot and how much variation is allowed. To begin with, the law requires that the ballot must be marked with a [just one] “cross”, perfectly placed in the space provided and made in pencil. Anything outside of this requires interpretation by the Counting Officer. The Counting Officer is the Returning Officer who can be assisted by a [just one] Presiding Officer who is identified by the Returning Officer. Further, the voter must vote by placing his mark within the space provided opposite the name and symbol of the candidate for whom he or she intends to vote.
The Returning Officer must reject all ballot papers which have not been marked for any candidate; on which votes have been given for more candidates than there are seats to be filled and upon which there is any writing or mark by which the voter could be identified, but no ballot paper shall be rejected on account of any writing, number or mark placed thereon by any presiding officer.
Any vote that is subject to interpretation will either be accepted or rejected. In deciding to reject a vote, the counting officer must seek to discern the intention of the voter and must determine whether the mark (or marks) can in any way identify the voter and destroy the secrecy of the vote.
The availability of 98 rejected ballots in Constituency #1 resulted in much public scrutiny. The petitioner became satisfied that he couldn’t substantiate his claim that most of the rejected ballots should not have been rejected and that if not rejected, would have been in his favour. We will never know for sure, as the withdrawal leaves the results as it is.
In every election that I have worked in and or supervised, there have been imperfect votes. But the Court has determined, and the Simmonds v Robiero case of 1980 reinforced this, perfection in a vote is not important.
For the avoidance of doubt, mark your ballot properly because every vote should count. That way you ensure that each person gets one vote in the right place, ensuring fairness to all.