Source: Jamaica Gleaner
The Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) has sought to downplay concerns over impropriety in the handling of poll books in the constituency of Clarendon North Western in the September 3 general election.
The People’s National Party’s (PNP) candidate for Clarendon North West, Richard Azan, said on Friday that he became sceptical when a request was made by the EOJ for him to send a representative to observe the replacement of some 20 poll books that were taken out of poll boxes. Azan said the request was “very fishy”.
Poll books are used to record the names of voters who turn up to cast a ballot on election day.
Azan told The Gleaner that sometime after 3 p.m. on Friday, a representative of the EOJ informed him that some of the poll books did not have the signatures of the poll clerk and the presiding officer.
A presiding officer is responsible for the smooth running of elections in a single polling station.
“They called them in to sign and [asked] if I could send a representative to witness for them to put them back into the box,” Azan told The Gleaner on Friday as he explained the situation that aroused his suspicion.
“That is unusual!” he added, arguing that at the count of the ballots, it was the responsibility of the EOJ to first check the poll books to ensure that all signatures and polling figures were properly recorded.
The EOJ bureau for Clarendon North West is located in Frankfield.
But in a late evening press statement on Friday, the EOJ defended the credibility of the electoral process.
“The returning officer for the constituency sought to fulfil his duties and, guided by the Representation of the People Act, was ensuring that all documents were properly checked and signed in preparation for transfer to the Parish Court for the magisterial recount scheduled to begin on Tuesday, September 15,” the EOJ said.
“All documents, inclusive of the poll books, remain secure and intact.”
Azan told The Gleaner on Friday that he had not acquiesced to the request of the EOJ for him to send a representative.
Azan failed in his bid to secure three consecutive terms as member of parliament after losing to the Jamaica Labour Party candidate Phillip Henriques, by 84 votes, on the final count.
Henriques was declared the winner in the final count with 5,630 votes.
However, 1,107 – or 10 per cent – of the total ballots cast were rejected, a situation EOJ boss Glasspole Brown admitted was highly irregular.
The PNP filed papers for a magisterial recount, which will take place on Tuesday.
Azan said that the situation is now in the hands of the PNP’s legal representative.
“There are so [many] unusual things happening. That for a poll book – 20 polling station or more – that presiding officer or poll clerk don’t sign and you have 1,000 and odd rejected. It is very usual for any election,” lamented Azan.
Azan said he would be “the last person” to accuse the returning officer of being in any “hanky-panky” but maintained that is how the situation is at present.
“My problem about it is for the Electoral Office now to be calling presiding officers and poll clerk to come in and sign is very fishy. Very fishy!” asserted Azan.
Though badly bruised from its pummelling at the polls on September 3, the People’s National Party (PNP) will recover from its worst electoral beating in 40 years,
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