Central Leeward Presiding Officer questioned about ‘mistakes’
Presiding officer and respondent Kathleen Jeffers says while she made mistakes during the count and poll at station CLA1, she does not agree that it amounted to “alot of mistakes”.
This statement was put to Jeffers on Tuesday, nearing the end of her cross examination, which had begun the day before. Jeffers told Stanley ‘Stalky’ John, lead counsel for the petitioner Benjamin Exeter, that she did not make a lot of mistakes, that she was only human, and that she had acknowledged her mistakes.
“You were told (during training) that once the voting was finished you should immediately count the ballots weren’t you?” John told her, to which she agreed, and she also agreed that this is not what she did.
She said that what happened when the polls closed, was that Esla Sam, the agent for candidate Benjamin Exeter, asked if one person had voted, and the persons present replied no, because they knew this person. After this, Jeffers said Sam realized that there was some confusion with the numbers on her list, and that Sam said she would sort it out when she got home. Jeffers objected and sought everyone’s consent to go through the counterfoils and the lists too, “to ensure that we all leave with the same number.”
Sam has denied this, saying she never had an disagreement in this regard with Jeffers.
Under the House of Assembly Election Rules, Jeffers was required to count the spoilt ballot papers and place them in a special envelope; count the unused ballot papers and place them in a special envelope with the stubs; check the number of ballot papers supplied by the returning officer against the number of spoilt ballot papers, and open the ballot boxes and count the number of votes given to each candidate, noting this on the tally sheet.
“So when you speak here that you wanted to make sure, in paragraph 8 (of her witness statement), that everyone agreed on the number of persons who voted before we left…what exactly you mean there, because you hadn’t gone down and done all those things, had you?, John asked her.
“Would you not have been able to determine how many people voted when you went down the line and counted the ballots?,” he reiterated.
Jeffers admitted that she would have known after she counted the ballots.
The counsel then put to her that her statement that she wanted to make sure that everyone agreed on the number of persons who voted before they left by reconciling Sam’s list with the clerk’s list, did not make sense.
Jeffers said it did make sense, because there would have been a query otherwise.
John also questioned her about the claims of two witnesses, Ethron Creese and Sam, who came on behalf of Exeter to observe the count, who had said that “many” of the counterfoils had no voter’s number written on them.
“I acknowledge that some of them did not have” the voter’s number, Jeffers said.
John pressed her that based on the instructions she was given, she ought to have written the voter’s number on all the counterfoils.
She replied, “Yes sir, but I’m only human, and sometimes we make mistakes in the rush of things.”
John countered, “That is true, that is so true and that’s why we have this case now,” because a lot of mistakes were made, he stated.
As a result of not writing the voter’s number, and putting the counterfoils in separate plastic containers for male and female voters, she became confused as to the number of voters, John submitted. At a later point, John also said that Jeffers tried to blame the delay in counting on Sam unfairly.
Jeffers did not agree with either statement.
It also came out that there were some counterfoils on which the voter number was written incorrectly, and when Jeffers noticed this she corrected it and initialled it, so that anybody checking would see that it was “my error and my correction”.
The form 16s or statement of the polls were also drawn to her attention, and that in her statement she said that she did not record the number of ballots received or the total of the number of the votes cast. In her statement, she had said that this was probably due to the pressure of time.
Where she was supposed to record the number of people registered to vote at the polling station, she placed the number of people who voted there instead. Jeffers said that she had drawn this mistake to the attention of the poll clerk who advised her not to redo the form because it was preliminary.
In cross examination by counsel Anthony Astaphan SC, Jeffers was referred to a part of her statement that said that counterfoils without numbers on them amounted to about five, and she stated that she stood by this.