EBC: Special voting not compromised

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar – Photo by Lincoln Holder

CHIEF Election Officer Fern Narcis-Scope has disagreed with Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s complaint about alleged irregularities in special voting for the local government elections.

Special voting began on August 7 and ended at 3 pm on Sunday.

Persad-Bissessar wrote to Narcis-Scope complaining about two ballot boxes not being sealed, alleging this could change the outcome of voting in any electoral district.

In a statement in response to Persad-Bissessar’s letter, Narcis-Scope said there was no provision in the election rules for the sealing of ballot boxes at special polling stations.

Narcis-Scope advised that it had become the practice for presiding officers to use ballot boxes to transport the sealed envelopes.

But she said there is no requirement in law to either use ballot boxes or to seal them.

The broken seals were part of a previous process utilised at the special polling station and was in no way part of the process being witnessed at Queen’s Hall on August 11, the statement said.

Narcis-Scope said her investigations revealed that all the special envelopes were sealed by the presiding officer and for safety and security in the transportation, all boxes were locked.

Further, at the sorting exercise at Queen’s Hall all the special envelopes were displayed as being sealed and intact.

Narcis-Scope said the fact that two ballot boxes were not sealed does not impact the outcome of the election in any given electoral district as suggested by Persad-Bissessar.

She also addressed Persad-Bissessar’s second complaint that ballots cast at the Sangre Grande Police Station were not packaged according to the standard procedure so that the names of some electors could be viewed by the EBC staff who were responsible for sorting the votes and sending them to the respective electoral district.

Narcis-Scope said her investigations revealed that the 11 covering envelopes with the declaration of identity of the special electors as required by Election Rule 71 were placed in the ballot box at that location, which was then locked and sealed

A proper record was kept of the districts that the ballots were cast for via a statement of the contents of the special ballot box in accordance with Election Rule 84 (2).

The record was duly signed by the presiding officer. This statement was also shown to witnesses present at the sorting exercise.

Narcis-Scope said it was regrettable that notwithstanding the training provided, there was a deviation from the approved procedure.

But, she added this deviation did not compromise the integrity of the process as all of the commission’s staff who were designated to participate in special poll proceedings are required to take declarations of secrecy.

Narcis-Scope said the identity of people who have cast their ballots is an essential component of the electoral process.