Report election breaches to me, Senator
THE EDITOR, Sir:
I write in response to Senator Marlene Malahoo Forte's presentation in the Senate on Friday, May 16, 2014 in which she spoke of irregularities she witnessed on election day, December 29, 2011 in the constituency of Westmoreland Central.
As director of elections and the person who presided over the elections, I am concerned that none of the alleged irregularities were reported to the electoral authorities. My investigations show that the matter was not reported to the returning officer for the constituency, the Constituted Authority, or to my office.
The Representation of the People Act was amended to set up a mechanism to deal promptly with irregularities on election day that have the potential to affect the outcome of the results in any polling division, electoral division, or constituency.
The amendment facilitated the setting up of the Constituted Authority, which investigates any report of irregularity and can either: (a) halt the taking of the polls under specific circumstances and have them retaken within 28 days or (b) apply to the Elections Court to have the polls declared void and retaken within 28 days.
This was aptly demonstrated in the St Andrew West Central Constituency in December 1997, where the election results were voided by the Elections Court and a rerun conducted. Based on reports of irregularities in the rerun, the results in four polling divisions were voided by the Elections Court and a further rerun was held in those four polling divisions. Each rerun resulted in a different candidate being declared the winner.
Despite the fact that the period for reporting to the Constituted Authority has passed, I am still interested in getting a report from Senator Malahoo Forte providing specific details of the irregularities she spoke about.
The report will be thoroughly investigated, and if any aspect is found to be of merit, corrective measures will be put in place to prevent a recurrence. Until proof of the contrary is provided, I stand by the reports to my office that no box was returned to the returning officer without a padlock and seal. The procedure is that following the preliminary count in each polling station, the boxes are sealed by the presiding officer and the indoor agent for each party.
In any case, the preliminary results would have been presented to each indoor agent, and so any significant difference between the preliminary count and the final count conducted by the returning officer would automatically generate a thorough investigation.
Director of Elections