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Ben Exeter submits affidavit

Ben Exeter submits affidavit

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Benjamin ‘Ben’ Exeter, the candidate for the New Democratic Party (NDP) in the Central Leeward constituency, says in court documents that he observed a number of irregularities on December 10 during the recount that was ordered in his constituency.

Among the irregularities Exeter said he noticed were issues with the ballot box seals and tags and a 100 per cent voter turnout in at least one polling station {{more}}at the December 9 General Elections.

Last week, Exeter and his lawyers Maia Eustace and Stanley ‘Stalky’ John filled an application in the High Court seeking, among other things, permission for Exeter or a representative to inspect the contents of ballot boxes from that constituency.

In the documents filed last week, Exeter who lives in Jackson Bay, Layou and is an IT Consultant, said that on the night of the elections, he was at home where he was receiving counts of the votes from the various polling stations in Central Leeward, by telephone from his agents.

He said that his agents started phoning in after 7.15 p.m. and the very first one that was called put him ahead and within half an hour, he received information for additional polling stations and by his count, he maintained a lead over Sir Louis Straker, the candidate for the Unity Labour Party (ULP), by two votes.

“Then there was an unexplained lag in the receipt of phone calls declaring vote counts. My phone was in order as I was receiving calls from other persons during that period asking for updates of the results. This unexplained lag lasted for about 45 minutes.

“Before the lag I had received the results from about five (5) Polling Stations. After the lag, I received additional results from other Polling Stations.

“Later in the night I visited the final polling station to be counted and whilst there I asked the Election Clerk, Mr Clyde Robinson what the result of the poll was in total and he told me the result of each Polling Division as he had a number of Form 16 sheets on the table in front of him for all the Polling Stations in Barrouallie. He gave me all of the results for the nine (9) Polling Stations in Barrouallie and Camillus ‘Bishop’ Welcome who was my Campaign Manager, recorded them. There are fifteen Polling Divisions in all. Based on the figures he gave me I had lost by three hundred and thirteen (313) votes.”

Exeter said that earlier on Election Day he was informed by the Returning Officer Winston Gaymes that the final count would be conducted at the Layou Police Station at 9 a.m. on December 10.

“I attended the final count at the Layou Police Station along with two representatives, Ms Maia Eustace and Ms Sharon Morris-Cummings, both Attorneys-at-law. The final count was conducted by Mr Winston Gaymes the Returning Officer for the Constituency and it started at about 9.10 am. There were no representatives for Sir Louis Straker at that time.”

“I also noticed that on several of the ballot boxes that what appeared to be a white seal was not placed over the cover of the ballot box flap and we showed this to Mr Gaymes. The box could have been opened without breaking the white seal. I noticed that the white seal was not made of paper but an adhesive material that Mr Gaymes easily peeled off from the plastic ballot boxes. I saw him do this several times. I formed the view that the boxes were not properly sealed at all, because each had four orange plastic straps to close it on the four sides of the box and one of the flaps which opens to gain access to the contents of the box. These orange straps could have been easily removed and replaced. The fifteen ballot boxes bore numbers and I asked Mr. Gaymes how can I be sure that these were the same straps that were placed on the ballot box by the Presiding Officers following the Preliminary counts? He replied that the numbers had not been recorded and told me to ask the Supervisor of Elections for that information because he did not have it,” said Exeter in his affidavit.

The NDP candidate said that he used his smart phone and took photographs of several of these boxes. Copies of the photos were also submitted to the High Court for scrutiny.

“The final count started and sometime after persons appeared on behalf of Sir Louis Straker and began making objections about what papers my representatives could see or not see. I heard them objecting to my representatives viewing counterfoils for ballots.

“Before their objection, Mr Gaymes had given my representatives one envelope that had some counterfoils and ballots and stubs and other papers in it. He did not let them keep it for more than a few seconds after the representatives of Sir Louis Straker objected to them viewing the counterfoils.

“After that, my representatives asked to see the counterfoils and other election papers, for instance the ballots and unused ballots, but Mr Gaymes persistently refused to allow viewing of the counterfoils for any of the remaining polling divisions.

“Also, in terms of the attitude of Mr Gaymes, I observed that anytime the representatives of Sir Louis Straker made objections, he would echo them. They whispered in his ears several times during the final count exercise and I heard my representatives complaining to him that he was not behaving in an impartial way and that he should desist from such conduct.”

Exeter said that he observed that at a particular polling station, none of the ballots displayed either the initials of the Presiding Officer or the official mark.

“Returning Officer Gaymes had rejected ballots from various Polling Stations before that looked like this but he allowed all these mutilated ballots saying he will do for the ‘goose what he did for the gander’ and passed all the ballots in spite of our objections. He denied our requests to see the counterfoils for these ballots.

“Another Polling Division had both mutilated as well as regular looking ballots. The Returning Officer passed these mutilated ones as well. It is my estimate that in all he passed more than three hundred mutilated ballots.

“My problem is that I was not able to check the counterfoils to validate the ballot count. I could not validate if these were regularly issued ballots. I asked Mr Gaymes for the counterfoils as did my representatives and he refused to allow them to be inspected,” said Exeter.

“In Polling Division CLD-I it was drawn to my attention that the Presiding Officer’s figures on the Statement of the Poll after Counting the Ballots showed that more ballots were accounted for (485) than were received from the Returning Officer (480). I told Mr Gaymes about this and asked him for a recount of the votes there and he denied my request even before I gave him the reason. One of my representatives requested me to state the reason to Mr Gaymes for the record. I did so and he still denied the request.

“In one of the Polling Divisions with the mutilated ballots there was one hundred (100) percent voter turnout according to the Preliminary Statement of the Poll after Counting the Ballots issued by the Presiding Officer. This is a very strange phenomenon to me as I am sure that it is a statistical improbability.

“Mr Gaymes did not give us the Preliminary Statement of the Poll after Counting the Ballots for the last Polling Division which was CLI-I although we asked him for it and objected to the count without this being produced. He ignored our objections and proceeded to count the ballots. I recall that Mr Robinson had given me the results for all of the Polling Divisions including this one when I went to the Polling Station the previous night.

“Returning Officer Gaymes also kept saying throughout the day that he had to finish the final count by 2 pm and he kept saying that he must finish the counts as he has to go to Government House to meet the Supervisor of Elections.”

Exeter said that Gaymes brushed aside many of the requests made for counterfoils and for him to see ballot books and stubs.

“I feel cheated because the way he conducted the final count did not allow me to verify whether the ballots especially the mutilated ones were backed up by corresponding counterfoils.

“In one Polling Division the number of unused ballots returned was not stated on the Statement of the Poll after Counting the Ballots.

“In Polling Station CL Al the number of ballots given to the Presiding Officer by the Returning Officer was not stated and based on the information on the Form 16 Statement for that Polling Station there was a 1005 voter turnout in relation to the number of names on the official list used at the poll. I took a photograph of this Statement with my smart phone.”

The photograph of that Form 16 Statement was also submitted by Exeter as an Exhibit to his Affidavit.

Exeter said that he told the Returning Officer that he did not accept the results of his count and that he intended to challenge the results in Court.

Stressed Exeter in his court documents, “I am advised and verily believe that there was an undue return or undue election in respect of the polls in the Constituency of Central Leeward in that there were breaches of the applicable laws, including the Election Rules.”

Exeter said he plans to file an election petition that will challenge Straker as the elected representative to the House of Assembly.

He contends in his application that if the orders he is seeking are not granted, he is of the opinion that the election petition that he intends to file will be negatively impacted in that critical evidence in support of his application may be lost.