Polling Agents and a Voter cross examined on Day Three of the Petitions Case
Wednesday saw polling agents from the Central Leeward constituency giving testimony on behalf of petitioner Benjamin Exeter, following which the case for the petition concerning the North Windward constituency began.
Paul Creese, who was an agent at polling station CLB1, was first asked about the notebook he was given to make notes on election day.
Lead Counsel for the Respondents Douglas Mendes, noted that Creese did not seem to be taking certain notes simultaneously as events occured on that day, but rather his notes were out of sequence in terms of time.
Creese replied that what happened was that he had written rough notes and then copied them over into the notebook later, after the vote count.
Mendes then put to Creese that, even though he took time to make his notes, he never mentioned in the notes that there were no initials and stamps on the ballots.
Creese said that the issue was not in his mind at the time.
Mendes referred him to a paragraph in his witness statement which said that the ballots were shown as they were counted and they did not have the initial and the stamp on it.
“But as you just told us, you really wasn’t looking for that,” he told Creese, who said that that was not what he said.
Creese said at the time he didn’t think the issue was a critical issue, that it was in speaking with his colleagues the day after, that he remembered where the stamp was on his ballot when he voted, which he seemed to be saying was on the counterfoil.
Mendes brought up the evidence of Maia Eustace, that apart from all the ballots in CLF and 99 ballots in CLF1, there were stamps and initials on all the ballots.
“I’m respectfully putting to you sir, that you were not making any observations about the ballots on that day. You were not looking to see where the stamp was on the ballot, and you are imagining or you imagined that they were not there,” the counsel stated.
Chester Charles, who assisted Exeter as an agent for polling station CLH, was asked about a part of his statement where he said that he saw the presiding officer folding up the right side of the voters’ ballots and appeared to be looking under the fold.
He was asked if the presiding officer could have been looking for the stamp and initials as they are supposed to. Charles said that he is not certain.
Esla Sam was next, an agent from CLA1, and she was questioned on whether she disagreed at the end of the day on who voted, and if it was for this reason that the presiding officer went through the ballots again to make sure everyone had the same number of votes.
Sam said she had not disagreed, as she did not know what their list said.
Mendes drew her attention to her own list which had numbers next to the names to indicate when someone came in to vote. According this list there were 350 voters.
On her list, Mendes put to her, “You recall that it happened that you repeated numbers? I checked again and there’s a number of occasions where you repeated the numbers,” to which Sam responded by creasing her eyebrows momentarily.
Mendes pointed out occasions where numbers were repeated, which he said amounted to 10. Further he noted that in his observations there were 60 numbers that were skipped out on the list, including “a whole of string” of numbers from 310 to 340.
Sam said someone sat in for her at one point, but Mendes said that this person had said the numbers they wrote in their evidence, and all those numbers were accounted for.
“It’s because of that, that your numbers went off, that there was that disagreement on the numbers that Miss Jeffers went through this detailed examination of the ballots and the counterfoils to make sure everybody had the same number of votes,” Mendes stated.
She replied that she did not accept this as the reason.
He also asked her about her notebook which was noted in red as missing.
She explained that after she gave it to candidate Benjamin Exeter’s sister, she again saw it in Maia Eustace’s office, but did not see it after this.
A video, which was recorded after the final count in Central Leeward, was shown on Wednesday. It showed Exeter protesting with returning officer, Winston Gaymes.
Maia Eustace is heard saying, “What about the polling station where every ballot is invalid? You rejected ballots that had no signature or stamp of the presiding officer at other polling stations, but when we found a polling station in which every single ballot lacked the sign, the initials and stamps of the presiding officer, you have accepted that result.”
The court’s attention then turned to the North Windward constituency and the petition filed by NDP candidate Lauron Baptiste.
Lead Counsel Keith Scotland called witness Deryck Smart.
Smart had, Mendes said, complained that his vote had not been accepted, and that the presiding officer, Veronica John, had behaved “bad, bad, bad,” and quarreled with attorney Kay Bacchus-Baptiste. The senior counsel noted that the presiding officer in her story said that it was Bacchus-Baptiste that was behaving “bad, bad, bad.”
Mendes told Smart that three persons said they saw a flash or heard a noise when he took a picture of his ballot, and that these were the police officer, the presiding officer, and the poll clerk.
Smart denied taking a picture, and denied their version. He said the phone was in his pocket, and that he did not see the ‘no cellphone’ sign.
Lastly, Kendall Sandy, an inside agent, took the stand and was questioned about his statement that the presiding officer peeked inside the ballots of persons who were not well known party members, and that the way she held the ballot, he personally could see the way about 60 persons voted.
Sandy demonstrated with a piece of paper how this was done, showing that while tearing off the counterfoil, the presiding officer supposedly bent her head to look at a space created between the fold.
Lead Counsel Keith Scotland, rose at this time and said that he could see on the other side that a respondent counsel was rolling a set of papers and looking through it while the witness was testifying. “I’m really, I must say, it’s very demeaning to the witness,” and disrespectful, Scotland intoned.
The Judge asked that the proceedings be conducted in the manner in which “these proceeding ought to be conducted.”
Lead counsel Anthony Astaphan, rose and apologized to the judge and the witness.
The Judge accepted the apology and continued.