The Election and Boundaries Commission (EBC) says it is “confused” by some of the queries being raised by the United National Congress (UNC) candidates during the 2020 General Election recount process.
Yesterday, defeated UNC candidate for St Joseph Ahloy Hunt told the media he had found 172 discrepancies in ballots coming from polling station 1041-1—which was located at the Mount Hope Secondary School. He said the concern was the consistency, or lack thereof, with regard to the initial affixed to the back of the ballot by the deputy presiding officer.
“We questioned that, we questioned the veracity of it, last night before we were allowed to examine each ballot and initials, a number of deliberations took place that slowed the entire process,” Hunt said.
“The returning officer left the room on at least two occasions, took very long. When they eventually agreed, they came back and allowed us, I along with my counting agent, we were able to examine each ballot and each ballot, each showed the initials. Big variations in the initials, what should be CE was CC, CL and something else, that isn’t even a letter. There was no clarity of the initial CE.”
The UNC candidate was joined by his brother Gary Hunt, a former minister under the People’s National Movement.
Gary Hunt, the former Port-of-Spain North/St Ann’s MP, said the concerns were not an attempt to delay the process.
“We want to make a stand, we are not being a hindrance to the democratic process, we want this to be over but we want to ensure that the process is clean, clear and to regulations. And we are questioning the process and we are questioning the irregularities of ballots,” Gary Hunt said.
The Hunts also questioned why they weren’t allowed to see the polling station diary to establish how many people voted without an identification card but rather under oath.
However, EBC Chief Elections Officer Fern Narcis Scope yesterday questioned the queries being made by the NUC, noting none of them fell under the legislation concerning an election recount.
“In relation to the viewing of the polling station diary and the signatures as raised by Mr Hunt, let me advise you that the none of the requests made by Mr Hunt fall under the guidelines or the legislation as it relates to how you proceed with a recount. None of them,” Narcis-Scope told Guardian Media in an interview. She explained that the issue concerning the initials on the ballot, if it had been an issue, should have raised on election night by the UNC’s agents during the count.
“In relation to the DPO ‘s signature. The initials rather, I am confused as to why Mr Hunt would raise that issue as being well, I don’t know that he can speak to that as an irregularity,” she said.
“At the time of the original count, polling agents would have been in the polling station acting on the gentlemen’s behalf. It would have been the responsibility of the polling agent in that polling station to raise whether or not there had been a discrepancy. There was no such during the original count when they were counting ballots the first time.”
Lawyers representing Hunt had sent letters to the EBC on Tuesday trying to get the matter addressed. After Narcis-Scope denied the request, the attorneys wrote back to her, urging that she use her discretion in acceding to their request.
“We note that your letter in response merely takes refuge behind the absence of a statutory power but fails to provide any reason to deny our client such an uncontroversial request. We are of the view that any discretion should be tethered to the concept of a free, fair and transparent electoral process,” attorney Rhea Khan wrote.
“Unfortunately, your unreasonable and possibly unlawful denial of our request may have the inadvertent effect of shrouding the extant recount with uncertainty which does not auger well for public confidence in the electoral process.”