Votes cannot be negated because of mistakes by electoral officials
June 9, 2000
The right of the elector to have his vote counted is supreme and cannot be negated by the mistakes of an election official.
This line of argument yesterday by Senior Counsel Doodnauth Singh during his marathon closing address, was designed to refute the claims by the petitioner, Esther Perreira, that those votes that were part of unsigned statements of poll (SOP) should be discounted as invalid. This was despite the petitioner having never disputed the accuracy of any single SOP, Singh said.
He called forth British judicial rulings on elections petitions whilst noting that the U.K. electoral system allowed a court to set aside a decision for a particular constituency without disrupting the national outcome. In the case of Guyana the judge is being asked to set aside the result for the whole country.
He cited the matter of an election in Croydon, North East for a seat on the Greater London Council. In a closely fought race, officials had failed to stamp 44 ballots which had been subsequently rejected. However, in his ruling, Lord Denny Master of the Rolls, allowed for their inclusion because the voter had in no way contributed to malpractice and that "no local government election shall be declared invalid by any act or omission of a voting officer in breach of his duty..." Other rulings allowed for the "fallibility of human beings inevitably prone to ordinary human mistakes."
Singh described the complex and laborious process presiding officers had to go through in arriving at the results, including filling out 30 forms. With the charged atmosphere, there were bound to be mistakes, he said.
Singh warned that to set aside the 1997 results after the careful scrutiny of the elections by the CARICOM Audit Commission could create mayhem.
Singh will continue his address today.
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