One-third of Region Four ballots were unstamped
Election petition hearing
May 12, 1999
Chief Scrutineer for the Alliance for Guyana (AFG), Desmond Trotman, yesterday said that 1/3 of the ballot papers contained in 734 ballot boxes from Region Four were unstamped.
Under cross-examination by Senior Counsel, Rex McKay, in the Esther Perreira election petition being heard before Justice Claudette Singh, Trotman said that it was the requirement of the Elections Commission that all ballot papers be stamped, but that there was a large number of unstamped ballots in several of the ballot boxes from the different regions.
He explained to the court that at a training programme that was held for all presiding officers and which he attended, it was stipulated that all ballot papers should carry a six-digit number. According to the witness, the presiding officers were told by a senior manager of the Elections Commission, that all unstamped ballots would be invalid without the six-digit number.
Trotman said that it was emphasized by the senior officers that the six digit numbers were extremely important to the exercise and the presiding officers were to ensure that these numbers were stamped on ballot papers for both the regional and general elections. The Commission also stipulated that all ballot papers be folded before they were placed in the ballot boxes.
The witness said that during the audit of the elections results, whenever the unstamped ballots appeared they were drawn to the attention of the CARICOM Audit Commission which was divided into three teams.
Trotman, representing the AFG, said that he was present at all times during the audit exercise and had observed the work of Dennis Smith of Barbados, Justin Daniel of St. Lucia and Frank Phillips of Trinidad. "I protested to the Audit Commission that they should not have counted the unstamped ballots", Trotman testified.
According to the witness, at first the Audit Commission was only concerned enough to say that those ballots should not have been counted, but when a pattern of irregularity was established with the unstamped ballots appearing throughout the exercise, they then ordered that a significant number be recorded.
The unstamped ballots, Trotman said, were allotted to the respective political parties for which they were intended.
On the question of unfolded ballot papers, the witness explained that these measured about 4 inches wide and 1 foot long and that it was also a requirement of the Elections Commission that these be folded before being put into the box. The slots on the ballot boxes, he said, were approximately 3 inches long and 1/2 inch wide, some in his opinion were slightly longer. However, Trotman testified that during the audit he observed a large number of ballot papers which he considered to be unfolded because they had no creases on them. He said that most of the unfolded ballots were also unstamped and these were reported to the Audit Commission.
Trotman told the court that on several occasions instructions that were clearly given by the Elections Commission were ignored. One such instruction was that all unused ballot papers were to be placed in sealed envelopes and then put into ballot boxes which were to be sealed also. He said elections materials including counterfoils were not placed in the boxes and in some instances, those placed in the boxes did not tally with the amount of ballots cast.
He cited one particular ballot box where there were only three counterfoils and the total votes were 193 with approximately 45 unused ballot papers. He added that it was clear that there was a large gap between the used ballots and the counterfoils.
He said that the audit team found that there were ballot books with several missing numbers. He explained that ballot books which were printed in 10's, 50's and 100's sometimes had the first 25 counterfoils missing and further, another 50 numbers from ballot papers would be missing from the book. The ballot books, he said, had serial numbers for the counterfoils and the ballots.
Perreira has named in her petition, which challenges the validity of the December 1997 elections results, the representatives of political parties and Chief Election Officer (CEO), Stanley Singh, as respondents. The CEO is represented by Senior Counsel, Doodnauth Singh, while Rex McKay SC is appearing for PNC Leader, Hugh Desmond Hoyte. (Liz Rahaman)
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