The “lost” Form 16 records of the outcome of the vote in North Windward in the 2015 general election, reappeared during the election trial last month, but were never presented to the court as evidence.
And opposition Senator Kay Bacchus-Baptiste, whose husband, Lauron “Sharer” Baptiste, is challenging the outcome of the vote, has suggested that there is something untoward about the development.
“… this so-called form 16s that turned up, we understand that something strange went on the Saturday night after the case started. A particular vehicle was parked in a particular old abandoned police yard next to someone who lives in Langley Park. What were they doing in that vehicle and then they turn up with what they say are form 16s? But, don’t worry about that because those form 16s were not before the court. They cannot reinvent them,” she told a rally of her New Democratic Party in Layou on Saturday.
Former Supervisor of Elections Sylvia Findlay-Scrubb told the trial she could not say if she received any statement of the polls in the North Windward election in 2015.
The statement of the poll, a “Form 16”, is the document on which the presiding officer at each polling station records vital election information, including the number of ballots received and used, as well as the outcome of the vote at that polling station.
The law requires that one copy be sealed in the ballot box after the preliminary count and the presiding officer retain the other.
At the final count, the returning officer unseals the Form 16, and signs to any amendments, before resealing the document in the ballot box.
The returning officer should retain the second copy of the Form 16.
However, as she was being cross-examined during the trial, Findlay-Scrubb said she could not say “off the top of my head” if she received any Form 16s at all from North Windward.
Findlay–Scrubb, who retired as elections chief last April, said she would only be able to verify that information if she goes into the ballot box.
The NDP has also filed a petition challenging the outcome of the vote in Central Leeward.
Bacchus-Baptiste, who is a lawyer in the case, said there is strong evidence in both petitions.
She, however, said that the respondents are especially worried about North Windward.
“Two lawyers from the other side confessed to me that North Windward bothers them. Central Leeward too, but North Windward because they did not have one single form 16.”
She told the rally that, in the words of the election chief, the Form 16 is the account of the election.
“It is the audit, it is how you know how many votes were issued to which person, how many ballots were issued, how many books. That is the account for the election. My dear people, we pleaded in our petition for North Windward that not a single Form 16 was issued. They did not have any. Did they bring it to court to say, ‘Sure, we have them; look it here’?”
Bacchus-Baptiste said that neither Ville Davis, the returning officer, nor Veronica John, the presiding officer at NWI, a polling station in North Windward, who testified in the case, presented any Form 16.
“But, lo and behold, half way through the case, after they realised how serious it is, they turned up with something they call Form 16 and chook it in Keith Scotland’s hand,” she said, referring to the lead counsel for the petitioner in the North Windward case.
“They are not in the case,” she said of the Form 16 statement, in terms of their evidential value.
“But let me ask you this, where they got them from? Veronica John said if there are Form 16, they’re locked up in the ballot box. Ville Davis said he had form 16s, but he lost them and he lost all his papers…
“So, I am saying the North Leeward petition bothers them,” Bacchus-Baptiste said.
“Where the ballots for those gone? There were ballot books with papers missing from them and then Veronica John would come to court and change her evidence to match. But the lady who she said she counted the counterfoils, who gave a witness statement, they never brought her into court. They never brought the person who Ville Davis said counted with him. All excuses. Listen, my people we have two, strong, strong, strong, strong … cases.
“I’m a lawyer, but tonight, I’m a politician. We don’t need the law to tell us they thief the election,” Bacchus-Baptiste told the gathering.
Regarding the evidence in Central Leeward petition, Bacchus-Baptiste said, “How can you disenfranchise an entire polling station?””
She was referring to a polling station where the presiding officer failed to put her initial or official mark on any of the ballots, ostensible because the space for them was on the counterfoil.
Bacchus-Baptiste said that the petitioners had referred to a case, Gunn and Sharpes, where less than one-third of the polling station was disenfranchised.
“… that means, you can’t count the vote. It’s as if they never voted,” she said, adding that in Central Leeward, 100 per cent of a polling station has to be declared void.
“How could any court then say that that election is valid? Of course, we wait on the judge because there are always two sides… We say no. We say that the law says that an election where you have to disenfranchise an entire polling station and about one-third of another polling station, and where 90 per cent of the votes breached the oath of secrecy, that is not an election.”
She said that in Central Leeward, the NDP’s Benjamin Exeter should have been the parliamentary representative of that area.
“But they teef the election, and this is not the first time,” Bacchus-Baptiste said.
The Unity Labour Party’s Sir Louis Straker was declared winner in Central Leeward and the party secured eight of the 15 seats, to defeat the NDP by a one-seat margin for a four consecutive terms in office, according to the official results.
The ruling in the case is slated for next Thursday, March 21.