Kathleen Jeffers, Ville-Davis, and Veronica John, three of the officials who presided over the 2015 general election. (iWN photos)

Opposition senator Kay Bacchus-Baptiste says that the persons who presided over the various polling stations in the 2015 general elections should be replaced before the next poll.

She further said that in the absence of an independent electoral commission, her New Democratic Party should have a say in deciding who are to be appointed presiding officers.

Bacchus-Baptiste’s comments came on Saturday at the NDP’s rally in Layou, as she criticised the actions of some presiding officers in the 2015 general elections.

Her comments were informed by the evidence adduced in the trial of the two petitions on which the court is slated to rule on March 21.

“Veronica John should never be a presiding officer in St. Vincent and the Grenadines again,” she said of the presiding officer at NWI, the polling station in North Windward.

Bacchus-Baptiste said that according to the NDP’s evidence, apart from being welcoming when ULP people came in, John refused to put the vote of an NDP supporter in the ballot box, claiming she heard a click and saw a flash.

“In broad daylight, she saw a flash. Even the lawyer on the other side said that was wrong. You cannot disenfranchise a voter because you think you saw a flash.

It is alleged that there were 39 counterfoils more than ballots at the polling station, and John admitted to telling some voters, “Show me your voting finger”, the words of a popular campaign song for the ruling Unity Labour Party in the 2015 vote.

Opposition Senator, Kay Bacchus-Baptiste speaks at the rally of the New Democratic Party in Layou on Saturday. (iWN photo)

Bacchus-Baptiste said:

“You have the power, you have the power. Look at your ballot. In fact, I am asking you to call on that new Supervisor of Elections to revamp all of those presiding officers and all those returning officers.

“We don’t want another Jeffers who can’t recall or another Wallace Christopher who can’t recall or another Ville Davis who lost all the records.”

Kathleen Jeffers told the court that she made many mistakes in her conduct of the poll and the final count at CLA1, the polling station at the heart of the Central Leeward petition.

In that same constituency, Wallace Christopher admitted to counting ballots he knew he should not have been counted, because they did not have his official mark and initials.

In North Windward, the returning officer, Ville Davis, said he lost all of the Form 16s, the records of the outcome of the poll

Bacchus-Baptiste said:

“You realise how serious that is? It’s not a football election you know. It’s not a little election with a club. It is a national election and you tell me that yuh lost all the papers. Listen to me, the petitions were filed merely 21 days after the election in 2015.”

She said that presiding officers take an oath to be free and fair and keep proper account.

“You cannot tell me you lost all the records. Do you believe that? My people, do you believe that? What are they hiding? What are they hiding? How could anybody believe this man?

“… Now tell me, our taxpayers’ money paid that man to run an election. He took mental notes, he lost all the papers, he lost the tally sheet, and he said even the papers of Bradie King, he lost them…

“So hear, I am calling on the new Supervisor of Elections to recall all those persons who are presiding officers, who are returning officers. I am saying that the NDP must have a say in who – until we get an independent electoral commission — not one under the prime minister’s office and Julian Francis, … we must have a say in who are presiding officers. I am not saying they are all like that, but they could never be another Gaymes.”

The new Supervisor of Elections, Dora James. (PhotoL Lance Neverson/Facebook)

Winston Gaymes was the returning officer in Central Leeward, and admitted to counting at the final count, ballots that did not have the official mark or initials of the presiding officer.

Gaymes, however, was not called as a witness at the trial and is said to have been living in the United States for some months now. Some reports had said that Gaymes would have testified via Skype.

“Where is Gaymes? … He is a party and Gaymes never came to give evidence because his affidavit was so filled with lies, but the time the other people were finished giving evidence, they dared not call him, just like in North Windward.”

Bacchus-Baptiste told party supporters that the NDP has already won as it has exposed the illegal practices in the election.

“Could that be a good election? Regardless of what the court says, could that be a good election?” she said.

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4 Comments

  1. Come on, my people of whichever party you support, put on your thinking caps!

    If Ms. Bacchus-Baptiste can boldly state that: “… the NDP has already won as it has exposed the illegal practices in the election…. ‘Could that be a good election? Regardless of what the court says, could that be a good election’” isn’t that an open admission that the election petitions case will be lost on legal grounds because the so-called “illegal practices” did not materially affect the outcome of the two elections, the overarching ground for overturning elections in our Representation of the People Act?

    “Regardless of what the court says” could be construed as a treasonous statement. It is surely an undemocratic and lawless one!

    Reply

    1. Are you trying to say that all those”irregularities” should just be overlooked? When in the future it is proven that these things happen again, possibly on a larger scale the precedent you are supporting will dictate that it can just be allowed to happen because it is seen as insignificant in this instance.
      Regardless of who wins or loses and for what reason(s), the way this last election was conducted should be seen as shameful. Do you think it is fine to lose the record of the vote tally, never to be found again? Did the dog eat my homework? Was it aliens? It is just fine to not submit the ballots to election officials immediately after the vote, just take them home with you, maybe left on the porch outside while you go to bed for the night. All of this is acceptable. Is that proper due diligence? No, that could not change the vote?!?! Is that what you are saying? Everyone knows you are a big ULP supporter, (apparently, so is the judge; that was obvious from early in the trial, because how he disrespects council for the petitioners) but would you be in support of this if the NDP did it?

      Reply

      1. C. ben-David says:

        The “irregularities” were not overlooked. Indeed, they were meticulously documented in court. But there was nothing uniquely “shameful” about the conduct of the last election because errors like these as well as others have always occurred in our elections (and those of other Caribbean and international countries)even as they were not detected.

        The important issue is whether the sum total of the irregularties were sufficient to overturn the election results. I am no “Wizard of Oz” so cannot predict the future. All I can do is point to the relevant passage in our 1982 Representative of the People Act” which says:

        “Notwithstanding anything contained in the provisions of this Act, no election shall be declared invalid by reason of non-compliance with the provisions of this Act or of the rules thereto or of the regulations made thereunder, or any mistake in the use of the forms prescribed under this Act, if it appears to the court having cognizance of the question that the election was conducted in accordance with the principles laid down in this Act, and that such non-compliance or mistake did not affect the result of the election.”

        My reading of the detailed coverage of the trial provided here by Kenton X. Chance is that “such non-compliance [“irregularities” as you call them] did not affect the result of the election.”

        In short, regardless of whether errors were made, intentional or not, these were insufficient in number and scale to overturn the election results thereby negating the democratic will of the voters.

        If Judge John is a “big ULP supporter” does this also hold for the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal which will adjudicate the results of this trial whichever way it goes? Or is a ULP supporter just anyone who respects the rule of law rather than the rule of the chattering and ill informed mob?

        As for my being a “big ULP supporter,” with friends like me, the ULP needs no enemies.

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