Two voters had same name, ID number
-witness tells elections petition hearing

Stabroek News
November 10, 1999

A former presiding officer (PO) said yesterday at the elections petition hearing that two women, bearing the same name as well as the same voter identification card number, had attempted to vote at her polling station on Elections Day, 1997.

Desiree Allen described this situation as "irregular" and went on to tell the court presided over by Justice Claudette Singh that it should not have been possible for two women to have the same name and number.

However, under cross-examination by Raphael Trotman, counsel for the petitioner Esther Perreira, Allen admitted that despite the irregularity, she had not reported the incident to the police.

She explained to the court that one woman had already voted when her namesake arrived to vote and, after this was detected, the second woman had been issued with a "tendered" ballot. A 'tendered' is a void ballot as it did not count as a vote. However, the PO said, the practice was to appease persons whose authenticity was in doubt.

She recalled that she had then placed this tendered ballot in an envelope, but could not recall whether she had placed the voter ID card with the tendered ballot.

Trotman drew her attention to a document from the Chief Election Officer (CEO) which listed POs and their place of appointment. Neither Allen's name nor her polling place were listed on this document.

Allen preceded Nandi Husbands, Premlall Ramessar and Gangadai Persaud on the witness stand. Allen and Husbands had taken the stand on Friday when they had been examined by Hubert Rodney, counsel for CEO and cross-examined by Saphier Hussain, representing the National Independent Party (NIP).

They were recalled yesterday to face cross-examination by Trotman, who, along with Peter Britton, SC, is representing Perreira.

Rodney had announced to the court on Friday that he would be calling eight more POs this week, before seeking the testimony of deputy returning officers. The lawyer explained that, while this would end the testimony of all the Region Four POs who had responded to the invitation to attend court, the testimony of those from Regions Two, Three, and Five would be postponed.

The postponement, he said, had been decided upon with Justice Claudette Singh's workload in mind, and future testimony would determine whether it was a permanent one.

Husbands repeated earlier testimony that she had switched her original polling station in Annandale with another PO's station in Lusignan out of fear for her own safety.

Under cross-examination by Trotman, Husbands conceded that her PO training manual made no provision for switching and also told the court that she had not intended to breach any law. She, however, maintained that she had feared for her safety and that, alternatively, she would have refused to work as a PO altogether rather than serve at her original posting.

Trotman produced her poll book and SOPs and had her observe that, despite having switched polling stations, her documents had been prepared for Annandale. She also agreed that since her SOP bore the number of her first polling station in Annandale, any results declared for her would be recorded as from Annandale instead of Lusignan.

Ramessar testified that he had been appointed as PO to serve at his own residence in Lusignan. He told Rodney that he had opened the polling station at his house at 0645 hrs, 45 minutes later than the mandated time. He said that he closed polls at 1848 hours, rather than 1800 hrs and during the course of the day, he had prepared his SOP and a poll book.

Trotman asked Ramessar whether he knew that 0645 hrs was the authorised time to open polls, to which he replied in the negative.

The witness explained that his ballot boxes had arrived late at the station, but when asked whether he had received permission to extend the close of poll, again replied in the negative.

Trotman then produced a document from the CEO listing all POs and their place of appointment and had the witness observe that his home address was not listed as the polling station to which he had been assigned.

Persaud, led by Rodney, said that she had not received a letter of appointment since she had been on "standby" and had only been appointed on December 14.

Trotman had her observe the CEO's document which not only listed her as an assistant PO but assigned her to a polling station different from the one at which she had said she had worked.

He also had her observe that she had worked as PO without the relevant documents and then asked her whether she had prepared her SOPs for both the regional and the general elections.

Persaud answered in the affirmative, but when shown an SOP by Trotman, noted that the regional SOP appeared to come from her polling station but did not bear her handwriting.

She also disowned the signature on the document and while conceding that she had asked her assistant to help her prepare the documents, was able to refer to her poll book to show that her assistant's signature did not match that on the SOP.

The hearing will continue today with testimony from the first of the final eight Region Four Pos

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples