Political parties have expressed grave concern over the Elections and Boundaries Commission’s (EBC) move to destroy thousands of “defective ballot” papers.
The EBC issued a release yesterday saying during the issuance of ballot papers to special electors in 40 electoral districts, an exercise which took place on November 20, 2019, “the prescribed procedure was not followed with respect to certain electoral districts”. The EBC did not say what the “prescribed procedure” was.
The EBC said these “defective ballots” will be destroyed by the Government Printer, in accordance with Election Rule 22(7) of the Representation of the People Act, Chapter 2:01.
“Consequently and with the aim of maintaining the integrity of the process, it has been decided that ballot papers intended for use by Special Electors in the electoral districts so affected, will be re-issued on Thursday November 21, 2019. Returning Officers have been advised to make the necessary arrangements,” said the EBC.
The commission advised that no special elector has as yet received a ballot paper.
Voting for special electors will commence on November 25, 2019, at the offices of the respective returning officers, or from November 26, 2019, at the special polling stations established by the commission for that purpose, the EBC said.
The Express sent questions to the EBC yesterday asking for clarification on what exactly were the proper procedures that were not followed and how many special electors would be affected. However, there was no immediate response.
UNC: Historic incident
United National Congress (UNC) general secretary Davendranath Tancoo wrote to EBC chief executive officer (CEO) Fern Narcis-Scope yesterday, saying the matter is of “grave concern” to the party as this incident has never happened before.
“To our knowledge this is the first incident of its kind in the history of the conduct of our elections, and given that 29 per cent of the Electoral Districts in Trinidad have been adversely affected, this is certainly not an insignificant matter.
“By our calculation several thousands of persons will be affected. Kindly advise what measures have been put in place to ensure that the Special Electors in these 40 Electoral Districts are not adversely affected by these incidents,” said Tancoo.
The letter said at its meeting with the EBC on October 24, 2019, the UNC “was at pains” to seek assurances that the EBC will ensure consistency in the application of the election rules during this local government election, and assurances were given.
Tancoo noted he had written to the EBC previously, highlighting the differences in practices by returning officers vis-à-vis the retention of nomination forms subsequent to the preliminary review of forms ahead of Nomination Day 2019.
“As you are aware, there were also issues and inconvenience as it related to the late introduction of new forms by the EBC in certain areas,” he said.
Tancoo added that further to his letter dated November 20, 2019, and captioned “Re: Spoilt Ballots Ben Lomond/Hardbargain/Williamsville”, the UNC was subsequently made aware of a significant number of instances in which similar errors were made by the EBC officials on site.
Tancoo said he was verbally advised by the chief election officer that 40 electoral districts were affected, and these ballots would be retrieved by the EBC and sent to the Government Printer for destruction and new ballots will have to be reprinted to replace the ones to be destroyed, and the entire process of packaging of ballots for the special electors will have to be redone.
Tancoo noted this was confirmed by the EBC’s media release which cited Election Rule 22(7) of the Representation of the People Act, Chapter 2:01 of the Laws of Trinidad and Tobago, as providing the legal mandate so to do.
Tancoo further asked the EBC to provide its legal interpretation to Election Rule 22 (7) as the UNC was “deeply concerned” that it may not be applicable or relevant to the current circumstance.
He added should the EBC continue with the destruction of the ballots, the UNC wants to be present to witness the process.
The affected electoral districts are:
1. Corinth/Cedar Hill
2. Inverness/Princes Town South
3. Balmain/Calcutta No 2
5. St Mary’s/Carlsen Field
6. California/Pt Lisas
7. Brechin Castle/Esperanza
9. Ben Lomond/Hardbargain/Williamsville
10. Marabella East
11. Marabella South/Vistabella
12. Marabella West
14. Piparo/San Pedro/Tabaquite
16. Debe East/L’Esperance/Union Hall
18. Maracas/Santa Margarita
19. Valencia East/Toco
20. Valencia West
21. Manzanilla/Fishing Pond
22. Sangre Grande South
23. Vega De Oropouche
24. Aranjuez/Warner Village
26. El Socorro/Aranjuez North
27. St Ann’s/Cascade/Mon Repos West
28. St Barb’s/Chinapoo
29. Petit Bourg/Mount Lambert/Champs Fleurs
30. San Juan East
31. San Juan West
32. Hindustan/St Mary’s
33. New Grant/Tableland
34. Cap-de-Ville/Fanny Village
36. New Village
37. Kelly Village/Warrenville
38. Valsayn/St Joseph
39. Caledonia/Upper Malick
Special electors (from the EBC’s website ebctt.com )
(a) a member of the Police Service, of the Special Reserve Police established under the Special Reserve Police Act, or of the estate police established under the Supplemental Police Act
(b) a member of the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force
(c) a member of the Prison Service
(d) a member of the commission, the chief election officer, the deputy chief election officer, and the assistant chief election officer
(e) the returning officer of an electoral district other than that in which he is registered for the purposes of the election
(f) a presiding officer, a deputy presiding officer or a poll clerk
(g) a polling agent
(h) a candidate or the husband or wife of a candidate for an electoral district other than that in which he is registered for the purposes of the election
(i) an election agent or sub-agent who is registered for the purposes of the election in an electoral district other than that of his candidate
(j) unable or likely to be unable to go in person to the polling station at which he is entitled to vote unless he travels between Trinidad and Tobago
(k) unable or likely to be unable to go in person to the polling station at which he is entitled to vote by reason of being:
• a patient in a public hospital, or in a private hospital approved by the commission, or an inmate in a public institution
• a prisoner within the meaning of that expression in Section 2 of the Prisons Act.
• a member of the flight crew of an aircraft
• a person engaged in offshore petroleum operations.