EBC admits error
By ANDRE BAGOO Tuesday, October 22 2013
THE ELECTIONS and Boundaries Commission (EBC) yesterday apologised for what it described as an “error” which resulted in voting at two polling stations at Point Fortin being called off mid-election.
However, the EBC said voters assigned to these stations would get a second chance to vote today from 6 am to 6 pm. The two polling stations involved are: polling station No 4696 located at the Guapo Government Primary School in the Electoral District of Techier/Guapo and polling station No 4730 at the Point Fortin RC Primary School in the electoral district of Newlands/Mahaica.
Results from these two polling stations will not be known until the end of today. The EBC at 3 pm held an emergency meeting at its headquarters at Scott House, Frederick Street, Port-of-Spain, where it deliberated on circumstances surrounding two polling stations in Point Fortin where the vote had to be called off. “The suspension became necessary after it was discovered that a number of electors had voted using the wrong ballot papers in those polling stations,” the EBC said in a press release subsequent to this meeting. “The Commission is currently conducting an investigation into the matter.” The body advised that all persons whose names are on the Revised List of Electors for polling stations 4696 and 4730 will be allowed to vote today, including those electors who had voted before the error was discovered.
“The Commission and its department apologise to the electors and the candidates concerned for this error and appeal to employers to facilitate the voting process,” the EBC said. In an interview with Newsday, EBC chairman Dr Norbert Masson was asked to explain what the error was. He said ballot papers listing the party symbols and candidate names meant for the two stations – which fall within separate districts – were wrongly switched, meaning ballots meant for Polling Station No 4696 located at the Guapo Government Primary School in the Electoral District of Techier/Guapo were sent to Polling Station No 4730 located at the Point Fortin RC Primary School in the Electoral District of Newlands/Mahaica and vice-versa.
Masson also said checks which were supposed to be conducted at the two stations to ensure the names listed on the ballots matched the notice of poll did not appear to have occurred, in contravention of standard EBC practice. Asked how the ballot error was discovered (since ballots and ballot boxes are not meant to be opened until after the close of polls), Masson said, “The error was brought to the Chief Election Officer’s attention by a member of a political party who may have learnt of the problem from an election agent. Names of candidates, profession, and all of these details on the ballot did not match the election notice. Returning officer and presiding officer did not check them. Basically, the ballot papers were switched.”
Between them, both stations account for about 1,000 voters in the corporation. At the time of the discovery of the error, a total of 89 persons had voted, Masson said. He called on employers to today allow voters in these two polling stations to be allowed to vote.
“We are asking employers to be considerate enough to allow workers the time to be able to do voting,” he said. The People’s National Movement yesterday wrote the Chief Election Officer Ramesh Nanan on the “mix-up”. “We wish to confirm the matter brought to your attention this morning by Mr Colm Imbert with respect to the mix-up of ballots in two electoral districts in the borough of Point Fortin,” PNM chairman Franklin Khan wrote. “Please note that this error could have a profound impact on the outcome of the election in the borough of Point Fortin and we ask that you ensure that the People’s National Movement and its candidates in Point Fortin, especially in the two electoral districts referred to above, are not disadvantaged in any way.” The PNM did not divulge any detail of how the error was picked up. In a television interview, PNM general secretary Ashton Ford last night expressed satisfaction with the EBC’s chosen course of action. “I must compliment the EBC for the way they responded,” Ford said.
The Movement for Social Justice (MSJ), contesting in the corporation, said it was concerned with the decision to suspend voting until today. “The MSJ views this with great concern since it could lead to the manipulation of the results as parties can bring out additional voters tomorrow, that is, persons who did not vote today,” the MSJ said in a press release. “It also frustrated persons who tried to vote within the last hour before the 6pm deadline which included those who were already at the polling stations and those who were on the way were not allowed to vote today.”