Kingstown, St. Vincent (ONE NEWS SVG) – Some Presiding Officers for the North Leeward constituency are being accused of sabotage by some persons on social media, for allegedly failing to affix their initials and stamp on some of the ballots they provided to voters in the November 5, 2020 General Elections.
If a ballot does not bear the initials of the presiding officer and stamp in a polling station and a voter is given the ballot paper to vote on, the vote will likely be counted as a rejected ballot.
It is not the fault of voters if a presiding officer omits to affix his/her initials on a ballot. But, the vote will likely be rejected, One News SVG was informed by an officer.
In the North Leeward constituency, which came down to a 7-vote margin of victory for the Unity Labour Party’s Carlos James , and then a one-vote majority after a recount, One News SVG was informed that as many as 39 ballots were rejected on the grounds that presiding officers failed to affix their initials and stamp on them.
One News SVG understands that 39 of the rejected ballots were ballots on which voters signaled (by a mark) that they intended to vote for James but the ballots were not initialed by the presiding officers at the respective polling stations.
One News SVG understands that some ballots on which voters signaled (by a mark) that they intended to vote for Roland ‘Patel’ Matthews were also rejected on the same grounds.
The issue is resurfacing in the 2020 election, after in the 2015 election, several ballots were rejected in some constituencies as the presiding officers failed to stamp some of them, thus disenfranchising voters.
The ballots are in the form of books with pages. Each page is an individual ballot paper which is torn out to give to each individual eligible voter in the polling station to vote for a candidate of their choice.
Each of them, however, must be initialed and stamped by the presiding officer before they hand them to voters.
In a recount, presiding officers have the discretion to determine whether they would accept a ballot they failed to stamp but it is less likely that that discretion will be used when the margin of victory in a constituency is extremely close.