The Form 16 was placed in Box – Witness
A presiding officer was questioned about the whereabouts of the form 16 she was required to fill, after it apparently could not be produced at the final count.
Ashanti Caesar-Benjamin was the second to last witness called in the hearing for the petition alleging irregularities in the way the general election was conducted in the Central Leeward consituency in 2015.
Caesar-Benjamin, presiding officer for CLI1, was a witness called by the respondents, and she was cross examined on Tuesday by lead counsel for petitioner Benjamin Exeter, Stanley ‘Stalky’ John QC.
The presiding officer is mandated to fill out a form 16, or a of statement of the polls, at the preliminary count, which accounts for all the ballots that were issued to the polling station.
Caesar-Benjamin said that she filled out two copies of form 16s, and that she put both of them in the requisite envelope, placed them in the ballot box, and sealed the box on that night.
John asked her about the training she received, and the instruction given to her about the form 16s. She responded that she was told that one should be placed in the envelope placed in the ballot box, and one should be kept by her to give to the returning officer or the election clerk.
Maia Eustace’s statement on the final count was read, which stated, “when we arrived at the final ballot box which was labelled CLI1, Mr Gaymes (Winston Gaymes, returning officer) could not produce the respective form 16 statement. He stated dismissively that there was none. We objected to the count proceeding, as there was no return on which to base the final count. Our objection was denied.”
“But you said that you put both of them in the box?” John asked her, which she responded, “Yes please I did.”
She said she handed over the box with the form 16s inside to the election officer. The next time she discussed the forms was when the Supervisor of Elections called her in 2017, she stated.
John read her witness statement where it said, “I am told that at the final count my statement of the poll could not be found. The first time anyone asked me about my missing statement was last year, when Miss Findlay-Scrubb called to ask me about it.”
He asked her what she told Findlay-Scrubb then, and she said she told her that she put both in the ballot box.
She was asked by counsel for the respondent, Anothony Astaphan SC in cross examination, if Exeter won the polling station CLI1, and she responded that he did.
Presiding Agent Tammy Walters was last to be cross examined, and she was tested on where she put her stamp and initial on the ballot. She was asked whether she had any problems with the ballots, to which she responded that she didn’t.
John asked her if she had noticed the box on the top right hand corner, and asked what she thought it was for.
She responded that in her training she was told to put her initial and stamp on the ballot so she “probably” realized that there were some “printing issues”.
He asked her to elaborate on printing issues, and she said that the box should have been where she put her stamp and initial, and not on the counterfoil.
“So weren’t you taken by surprise to see that box up there to start with?,” he asked her, to which she responded that she guessed, but
that she didn’t have any control over that.
“Didn’t you hesitate as to whether or not you should put the stamp and initials in it or below?,” John asked her, to which she said that she “wondered a little” when she collected the ballot box, but in discussion with the election officer just before the polls opened, he told her not to put it on the counterfoil.
John put the petitioners case to her, which is that when she was doing the count, there were ballots without the initials and stamp on them counted, to which she responded that this wasn’t true, and that all her ballots had the initial and stamp