Lawyers for the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) has filed a motion asking the High Court to order Supervisor of Elections, Sylvia Findlay-Scrubb to deliver to the court the documents relating to the election in Central Leeward on Dec. 9, 2015.
The motion comes as the High Court ruled on Friday that the petitions challenging the results in Central Leeward and North Windward are not invalid and can proceed to trial.
July 12 has been set for the hearing of the motion, but a lawyer for the petitioners told iWitness News on Sunday that the motion is unlikely to be heard before a new date has been agreed and published in a similar manner as was done for previous two hearings in the case that has been going on for 18 months.
Via the latest motion, the lawyers are also asking the court to order that ballot boxes from some polling stations in Central Leeward be opened by the Registrant of the High Court in the presence of the petitioners and/or his representative.
They are also asking the court to grant permission to inspect all ballot papers in the ballot boxes with a view to determining whether all the ballots were pre-printed with the official stamp or stamped by the presiding officer or as the case may be.
Ben Exeter, the NDP’s candidate for Central Leeward in the December 2015 vote, is challenging the outcome in the district, which electoral officials say was won by Sir Louis Straker of the ruling Unity Labour Party.
The NDP’s Lauron Baptiste has mounted a similar challenge against the ULP’s Montgomery Daniel in North Windward.
By inspecting the ballot boxes, Exeter is hoping to determine whether 769 ballots from four polling stations in Central Leeward were validly cast.
Specifically, Exeter and his legal team want to determine if ballots were defective and/or wilfully cut in such a manner that a portion of the ballot paper was absent and that they bore neither the stamp nor the initials of the presiding officer, and/or whether they bore the presiding officer’s initials below the line which should have separated the names of the candidates from the remainder of the top portion of the ballot paper and were deliberately cut in an irregular manner, whereby the top portion of the ballot which should have contained the space for the endorsement of the presiding officials initial and the official mark was severed and/or absent.
The petitioners also want to determine whether the presiding officer’s initials were endorsed on the counterfoils for such defective ballots.
Exeter’s lawyers have laid out a number of grounds to support their motion, noting that their client has complained of undue return or undue election of Sir Louis.
They say that by inspecting the ballot boxes, it may be determined that Sir Louis was unduly elected or returned and that the election was void, or that he Exeter was duly elected and ought to be returned.
The lawyers are asking the court for an order for scrutiny and recount in respect of the defective ballots to which the objections were made by Exeter and/or his representative/agents.
On Sunday, a lawyer for the petitioners told iWitness News that “the pivotal objective of the petitions is to establish that the form of the ballots was illegal and that as a result the sanctity of the secrecy of voting was compromised and that hundreds of illegally cast ballots were counted in contravention of the Presentation of the People Act and regulations made under that law.
“Both the Supervisor and the Returning Officer for Central Leeward have each filed sworn affidavits admitting to the latter fact. The petitioner, Exeter, has filed a motion seeking inspection of the ballots, scrutiny and a recount as part of the trial process.”
The lawyer noted that in her judgment on Friday, High Court judge, Justice Esco Henry ordered that the petitioners each deposit, by July 7, EC$5,000 to make the security for the petitions sufficient.
“The cash security for costs will be paid on behalf of the petitioners, whose legal practitioners on record will then request the earliest date that is convenient to the court and to the respondents’ lawyers for the hearing of the petitions to resume,” the lawyer said.