UNC wants EBC Chief to investigate irregularities with Special Voter ballots

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UNC wants EBC Chief to investigate irregularities with Special Voter ballots

The United National Congress (UNC) is calling on the Chief Elections Officer Fern Narcis-Scope to investigate certain irregularities which were detected and raised during the Special Voter Ballot process on Friday 11th August 2023 at Queen’s Hall in Port of Spain.

In a statement on Saturday, the party said that in the first instance, the seals on certain ballot boxes appeared to be broken prior to arrival at the facility.

They said that around 2.06pm shortly after the exercise commenced, the UNC’s designated representative observed that the seals on certain ballot boxes which had not yet been opened were broken.

According to UNC, PRO Kirk Meighoo, the process being undertaken in the presence of the observers was a methodical one, whereby the ballot box number, the location where the box was stationed and the number of ballots contained therein according to the statement of the special presiding officer would be called out, followed by the breaking of the seals and removal of the lock. No such process had taken place in relation to these specific boxes.

“The UNC’s representative photographed the broken seals whilst another box was being sorted. Almost 20 minutes later when the boxes in question were being called out and the sorting process due to begin, a question was raised about the seals. The Assistant Chief Elections Officer Pamela Ogiste, who supervised the operations, was questioned about when the seals on the specific ballot boxes were broken and asserted that it had been done immediately prior to the box number being called. When confronted with the photograph taken and time stamped at 2.06pm, none of the EBC staff present could give an explanation. There was a systematic process of cutting seals, opening locks and removal of envelopes and the prior cutting of these seals at the site seemed highly unlikely.”

He said several questions therefore arise.
“On the face of it, it would appear that these boxes were opened after the seals were affixed by the special presiding officer, and the EBC must determine if that is so, who would have done so, at what location and for what reason.”

“It was later established these boxes with the broken seals came from the same location (the EBC’s Office on Circular Road in San Fernando) and contained the highest number of ballots out of all the Additional Special Polling Stations established by the EBC pursuant to the Election Rules. This makes it even more critical that an urgent investigation take place, since the substantial number of ballots contained in those boxes compared to other stations can significantly impact the outcome of the election in any given Electoral District.”

The party said the Chief Elections Officer must therefore investigate this incident and give an account to the population before the takin of the poll on Monday 14th August.

They said, “It is imperative that persons wishing to exercise their franchise on Monday are able to do so with the assurance that the free, fair and insulated from interference.”

“A proper check of the boxes to ensure seals are in place upon collection and delivery ought to be standard operating procedure for something of this magnitude and importance. Mrs Fern Narcos-Scope is therefore responsible and must account to the country for the apparent breach which took place.

In a second detected irregularity, the UNC said the ballots cast at the Sangre Grande Police station were not packaged according to the standard procedure. This meant that the names of each voter could be viewed by the EBC staff who were responsible for sorting the votes and sending them to the respective Electoral Districts. Again, the deviation from procedure by persons employed or appointed by the EBC to carry out election duties casts a long shadow of doubt over the integrity of the process.