Supervisor of Elections Sylvia Findlay has declined to comment on whether election ballots and counterfoils can be used to determine how someone voted.
High Court Judge Brian Cottle in a Dec. 28 ruling said if New Democratic Party candidate Ben Exeter is allowed to inspect the counterfoils as well as the ballot, “it will be possible for the applicant to identify individual voters and see how they voted”.
This came as a surprise to many voters, who have been under the impression that once a ballot is cast, it is not possible to match a ballot to a voter.
Asked on Monday if ballot and counterfoils can, in fact, be used to determine how someone voted as the judge said, Findlay told iWitness News:
“I don’t think I ought to try to make a judgement on what the learned judge would have said. He listened to all the facts and he made a judgment. It’s not for me to say whether I think it’s fair or not.”
Pressed about whether the judge’s comment reflects the voting process, Findlay said:
“I will not comment on that because that was issued by the judge and he has knowledge of the system and how it operates and all of that. Those things would have been given to him, so I am not going to comment on that.”
It was noted that voters had been told in the past that one cannot know from a counterfoil how someone voted.
In response, Findlay told iWitness News,
“I am not sure who said that. It certainly was not me.”
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves defended the secrecy of the ballot when General Secretary of his Unity Labour Party, Sen. Julian Francis, claimed some years ago that he knew the exact number of Syrian who voted Labour in the 2001 and 2005 elections.
Gonsalves said Francis used political intelligence to determine the figures and that the secrecy of the ballot was not violated.
In Monday’s interview, the elections chief reiterated that the judge’s comment was made in a court ruling.
iWitness News pointed out that outside of the context of the legal challenge, electors might be concerned about how someone would be able to tell, by examining a counterfoil, how voters marked their ballots.
“I am not going to comment on it because there was a matter before the court, the judge made a determination. I think it would be presumptuous of me to try to comment on anything that he said. Certainly, it is not just a comment by any person in the community. It is the judge making a ruling. So, I will not comment on it,” Findlay told iWitness News.
Speaking to reporters on Dec. 29, Gonsalves welcomed the court judgement, saying: “Oh, I read the judgement, and, as an experienced lawyer, it’s a magnificent judgment; well-written, well-argued…
“The judgement said the applicant, Mr. Ben Exeter, had neither the law nor the facts on his side and that it was in the nature of a fishing expedition. And the court is not the place to go fishing. That is well-established.”
However, when asked about the judge’s comments that by examining the ballot and counterfoils it will be possible to see how someone, Gonsalves said:
“I am not discussing any particular aspect of the judgement except to say that the judge said that you must have strong grounds for such an application and that here was no grounds. He quoted the law and he quoted the facts.”
Electoral officials say Exeter lost in Central Leeward of Sir Louis Straker of the ULP by 218 votes.
Exeter and his New Democratic Party are alleging election fraud.
He asked the Court to authorise the Registrar to open in his presence the sealed boxes and packages continuing the ballots and counterfoils, so that he can examine them.
The court refused the application.
The NDP has since filed election petitions regarding the results in Central Leeward and North Windward.