Lengua/Indian Walk in legal limbo after second recount

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Rev Autly Granthume –

THE outcome of the vote in the Lengua/Indian Walk district was left in limbo on Friday, after a second recount into results in that district failed to break a tie between the PNM and the UNC.

In a statement on Friday, the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) said it would seek legal advice on the matter.

The EBC also said a recount in the Maracas/ Santa Margarita district, confirmed victory there for the PNM.

While a recount in the Arima North East district gave it to the UNC on Thursday, the EBC said the PNM has requested that another recount be done there.

To date, the results in the other 138 districts contested in Monday’s local government elections have been confirmed.

A by-election may be needed to determine who will represent Lengua/Indian Walk.

Preliminary results in Monday’s local government elections showed the PNM candidate Rev Autly Granthume winning the district 1,430 to 1,425 over the UNC’s Nicole Gopaul. This gave the PNM a presence in the Princes Town Regional Corporation (PTRC) it has not had since the 1996-1999 period, when Godfrey Lee Sing was the councillor for Moruga.

On Tuesday, the UNC requested a recount of the votes in the district.

On Wednesday, this recount resulted in the PNM and UNC being tied with 1,428 votes each.

In a statement, the EBC said a second recount would be done on Thursday.

Nicole Gopaul –

That count was done in accordance with Election Rule 101 (13) of the Representation of the People Act. The rule says, “Where a final count results in an equality of votes between or among the candidates obtaining the most votes, the chief election officer or an officer designated by him for the purpose shall conduct a recount not later than four days after the closing of the poll.”

Should repeated recounts fail to resolve an electoral tie, the deadlock can be broken through the application of Election Rule 101 (15), which says, “Where the recount results in an equality of votes between or among the candidates obtaining the most votes the chief election officer shall so certify to the returning officer who shall declare the election void and a new election shall, as soon as possible, be held in accordance with these (election) rules.”

The second recount continued on Friday.

Sources told Newsday there was an “equality of votes” at the end of the recount.

If confirmed, Election Rule (101)15 would be activated triggering a by-election for Lengua/Indian Walk.

In a letter to the EBC on Friday, the UNC threatened legal action against the commission if it did not validate a single ballot it claimed could resolve the tie.

On Tuesday, Princes Town MP Barry Padarath claimed the ballot, deemed invalid by the commission, could resolve the tie in favour of the UNC.

In the UNC’s letter to Narcis-Scope, party PRO Dr Kirk Meighoo said the UNC wanted confirmation on this issue by noon on Saturday or the party would take legal action against the EBC.

Newsday understands that during the first recount on Tuesday, the PNM was represented by its election agent for Lengua/Indian Walk and former UNC MP Collin Partap.

The UNC was represented during part of the recount on Tuesday by its election agent and an attorney named Ashley Badal.

During the second recount which began on Thursday and continued on Friday, Tourism, Culture and the Arts Minister Randall Mitchell replaced Partap.

Padarath and Moruga/Tableland MP Michelle Benjamin participated at different times during the first and second recounts.

Should there be a by-election, the result would not change Monday’s 7-7 electoral tie between the PNM and UNC.

Regardless of who wins it in a possible by-election, the PTRC remains in the group of seven corporations retained by the UNC on Monday.

On Friday, the EBC said the recount of votes in Maracas/Santa Margarita saw the PNM winning with 1,716 to the UNC’s 1,656 votes.

The PNM gained two more votes while the UNC received one more vote.

On Arima Northeast, the EBC said the PNM requested a second recount in accordance with Election Rule 101 (6).

In the first recount, the UNC won the district 624-623.

The district falls under the Arima Borough Corporation.

The result did not change the status quo there, with the UNC holding one district while the PNM holds the other six.