Fri | Oct 23, 2020

Hike fees for magisterial recounts, says Leiba

Published:Saturday | September 12, 2020 | 12:15 AMTamara Bailey/Gleaner Writer

MANDEVILLE, Manchester:

President of the Jamaican Bar Association, Emile Leiba, has called for the hiking of costs charged to candidates who request magisterial recounts in national elections.

At present, a sum of $40 is required of each candidate seeking a magisterial recount.

However, Leiba argues that the threshold should be increased to at least $150,000 to avoid potentially frivolous requests by candidates who lose by more than 1,000 votes.

“... I don’t think it was ever made to reflect an economic cost. ... I think it was to be something where you don’t run to do it for every seat.

“ ... It should be a deterrent to request frivolous recounts and utilise public resources and court resources unnecessarily,” said Leiba.

Magisterial recounts are scheduled or under way in Clarendon North West, Manchester Central, Westmoreland Eastern, St Ann South East, and St Catherine North West.

The recount that has raised eyebrows is that of independent candidate Rohan Chung, who mustered in Manchester Central, which got under way Friday and could continue over a number of days.

Chung, who got 49 votes at the official count, told The Gleaner that he believes that he secured approximately 4,000 votes.

“... I had two boxes come in with my name on it, and by the time it got inside the centre, the votes were given to another candidate. I had 22-plus votes from a PD (polling division) and the envelope said zero.”

Chung accused EOJ workers of “grossly mishandling” the voting process on election day and during the official count.

“I was at the recount and I saw some sheets that had two markings on it. It was not rejected; it was put in the count and given to another candidate ... . I tried to object it and one of the ladies tried to run me out ... ,” he said.

These reasons, he said, were the prime bases that justified the magisterial recount.

Chung appeared at the Manchester Parish Court representing himself, while the Jamaica Labour Party Member Parliament-elect Rhoda Crawford, appeared with her lawyers Tova Hamilton, Maurice Smith, and Charles Benbow, under the instruction of Carolyn Chuck, who was not physically present.

The People’s National Party’s Peter Bunting was represented by councillor of Mandeville, Jones Oliphant, who did not have a lawyer present in the room.

At one hour to close the day’s recount, the team had gone through 28 of 128 boxes, with Crawford securing an added vote.

Director of Elections Glasspole Brown said that magisterial recounts are not necessarily tedious, as preparatory work is always done for such eventualities.

“... It varies from case to case. Some might take three to four days, but they tend to go at a fairly reasonable pace, so they should not take long ... ,” said Brown.

The count is expected to resume today.