The presiding officer at a polling station at the heart of the Central Leeward election petition, on Tuesday, told the court she made multiple “mistakes” in her conduct of the 2015 election and the counting of the vote.
Kathleen Jeffers’ “mistakes” at CLA 1 included not writing the voter’s registration number on some ballots, writing incorrect voter’s numbers on others, not recording the number of ballots she received or was used in the poll, and confusing the number of registered elected and number of persons who actually voted.
In her witness statement, Jeffers said:
“I had put the counterfoils in two rectangular plastic containers. When the voter handed me back the ballot paper, I tore off the counterfoil and put it in one of the two plastic containers. One container was for male and the other container was for female.”
She said “a few of them” did not have the voter’s number.
Queen’s Counsel Stanley “Stalky” John, lead lawyer for the petitioner, Benjamin “Ben” Exeter, noted that Esla Sam and Ethron Creese, who testified for Exeter, had said that many of the counterfoils had nothing written on them.
“I acknowledged that some of them did not have. And that is in relation to the voter’s number,” Jeffers said.
Sam was Exeter’s agent and Creese witnessed the vote count after the Dec. 9, 2015 vote.
John told Jeffers that based on the instructions she was given and the election rules, she was supposed to write the voter’s number on all of the ballots.
“Yes, sir. But I am only human and sometimes, we make mistakes in the rush of things.”
“That is so true and that is why we have this case today. A lot of mistakes were made.”
“But that does not negate the truth in all that happened in that election.”
John told the witness that as a result of having not written the voter’s number on some of the counterfoils and having them in two containers, she was confused about how many votes were cast before she began the exercise of counting the ballots.
Jeffers said that, in a few instances, the number on the counterfoil did not exactly match the number on the voter’s list, so she made a correction and initialled it.
She said that, for example, she placed an extra zero in a voter number and when she was going over, she corrected the number and initialled it so that anyone checking it would know it as her error and correction.
“And I think that was the right thing to do.”
Jeffers told the court she could not recall if she was moving the counterfoils from one container to another as Sam and Creese had alleged.
“I told you, I can’t recall,” she maintained.
Sam has alleged that there was a discrepancy between the number of persons she recorded as having voted and the number that other polls workers recorded.
Jeffers is alleging that the process of reconciling those numbers resulted in her completing the final count sometime before 9 p.m., almost five hours after the poll closed.
The results from her polling station, however, were not sent to electoral officials in Kingstown until around 11 p.m.
She also told the court that she could not recall “at this moment” how many counterfoils she counted.
Jeffers also told the court she could not recall when she was adding up the counterfoils if she knew how many persons had voted at the polling station that day.
She said she couldn’t recall telling Sam that in all the rush, before she could enter on the final count she needed to do that reconciliation.
In her witness statement, Sam said that after counting the ballots, she recorded the result on the Form 16 – on which the information concerning the ballot received and used and the number of votes cast are recorded.
In her witness statement, Jeffers said:
“I see from the Form 16 that I did not record the numbers of ballots I received or the total of the number of the votes cast… I cannot exactly say why I did not record these numbers. It was probably due to pressure of time.”
John told Jeffers that that is the same allegation that Sam made regarding why Jeffers had gone through the counting of the counterfoils.
In her witness statements, Jeffers further said she had now added up the number of votes cast, the number of rejected ballots, the number of spoiled ballots, and the number of unused ballots recorded on her form 16 and the total is 480.
John called Jeffers’ attention to the Form 16 and she confirmed that there is no total on the form but only the “breakdown of the total”.
She said in her witness statement that she saw from the Form 16 that she had recorded the number of persons on the voters list as 343.
The witness further told the court she had interpreted the “number of names on official list of electors used at the polls” to mean the number of persons who voted.
Jeffers said that what she was saying is that 443 should be where she had 343 at the bottom of the list.
“So, you made a mistake in putting 343 there?” John asked the witness.
The lawyer replied:
“So Miss Jeffers, you seem to be making a great many mistakes.”
She said that the lawyer had asked her the question but had not allowed her to finish her response.
Jeffers then told the court that she recognised the error and told the election clerk that she wished to redo the form because of the error.
She said the election clerk indicated that it was the preliminary and would be corrected. She said the other information except for the number of ballots that she received, which was 480, wasn’t there.
“He asked me to sign and that is what I did,” Jeffers said, adding that she signed the form without making any corrections.
John directed Jeffers to the official final results as published by the Supervisor of Elections.
Jeffers confirmed that the figure on the election chief’s results, 443, does not correspond with her Form 16, which has 343.
“Now, Miss Jeffers, you made a lot of mistakes, did you not, in conducting the final count and reporting?” John said.
“I won’t agree with that,” Jeffers said.
“I did make mistakes but I am only human and I acknowledge my mistakes.”