Same ballot boxes will be used on Election Day – SOE
by BRIA KING
THE SAME PLASTIC ballot boxes that have been used in the past two General Elections as well as the 2009 referendum will be used on Election Day, November 5.
But Supervisor of Elections, Dora James says that these boxes will be secured using locks, unlike previous times when plastic ties were used to seal the ballot boxes.
“We’ll use the same type of boxes…yes,” James told SEARCHLIGHT in a recent interview. “In terms of the ballot boxes, the law would be followed in terms of… the choice of the boxes and how they are secured, how they are locked. But we are using locks. We’re gonna use locks.”
The issue with the securing of ballot boxes was raised in the 2019 Election Petitions trial where Maia Eustace and Benjamin Exeter, who were witness and petitioner respectively for the Central Leeward Petition both evidenced their concern about the plastic ballot boxes used and how they were secured.
Upon observation of the boxes, the two witnesses said they noticed that the ballot boxes were sealed using plastic ties and easily removable plastic seals that did not leave a trace when removed.
It was therefore concluded that the boxes were not properly sealed and could be tampered with.
Prior to the 2009 referendum, wooden ballot boxes with locks were used for electoral processes.
The Representation of the People Act (1982) does not specify the type of material from which the ballot boxes should be made. It however specifies the locking of boxes in several sections of the Act.
“Immediately before the commencement of the poll, the presiding officer shall show the ballot box empty to such persons, if any, as are present in the polling station, so that they may see that it is empty, and shall then lock it and shall place it in full view of all present for the receipt of ballot papers, and keep it so locked until the close of the poll,” Part II, 28 of the RPA says.
It also notes that “immediately after the ballot box is so locked, the presiding officer shall call upon the voters to vote. The presiding officer shall facilitate and regulate the admittance of every voter into the polling station, and shall see that they are not impeded or molested at or about the polling station”.
Former Supervisor of Elections, Sylvia Findlay- Scrubb, who also presented evidence in court during the 2019 Election Petitions Trial, said there were no complaints about the ballot boxes prior to the 2015 elections and both sides had expressed satisfaction with the boxes.
Justice Stanley John presided over the petitions trial and said in his judgment that “it is too late in the day to complain about the use of plastic boxes and the manner in which they were secured”.
The judge noted the concerns of Exeter, saying that the boxes were not tamper proof and thereby susceptible to undetected intrusion. But he added that no evidence had been given to prove that the boxes had been tampered with.
The Central Leeward petition as well as one filed in relation to the North Windward election were eventually dismissed, the court having found no evidence to support the major issues raised by the petitioners. This judgement has been appealed.