Once the ballots have been counted at the places of poll, the ballot boxes really do not matter much anymore. The concern over the integrity of the ballot boxes and the need to protect them after the count are nothing but useless gaffe.
At the end of the polls, the Presiding Officer at each polling station would initiate the process of the counting of the ballots. The ballots are counted in the presence of the polling agents who represent the respective political parties. Each party is allowed a counting agent to witness the count of the ballots.
At the end of the count, the totals for each party are compared with that which the polling agents and counting agents would have recorded. This is to ensure that there is no dispute as to the number of votes which each party receives.
After this is completed, the result would be recorded on a Statement of Poll. On the Statement of Poll, the Presiding Officer will record the number of valid votes cast for each list of candidates, the number of electors voting at the Polling Station, the tendered ballot papers used, the spoiled ballot papers, the destroyed ballot papers and the rejected ballot papers with the reasons for rejection.
Those who are witnesses to the counting of the ballots are then required to sign the Statement of Poll, copies of which are then given to them. Once a political party has a representative in the polling station that party should have a copy of the signed and certified Statement of Poll.
The Statement of Poll is the official record of the result of the election at each polling station and not the ballot box. It is then transmitted to the Deputy Returning Office, Returning Officer and the Chief Elections Officer. The Statements of Poll are used to compile the results for every region, not the ballot boxes.
This nonsense, therefore, about having supporters outside of the polling stations to work the dayshift and nightshift is poppycock. There is no need for anyone outside of the polling stations to protect the ballot boxes after the counting since the principal document for the count is the Statement of Poll which bears the signatures of the Presiding Officer and those who witnessed the count, including the party representatives.
Copies of the Statements of Poll are supposed to be pasted up outside each of the polling stations so that the public can view the results.
As mentioned before, the party polling agents also receive copies and this result is often transmitted by them to their command centers which then do their own tallies. The political parties therefore know by the next morning who won the elections.
The call therefore for persons to protect the ballot boxes is sheer nonsense. The ballot boxes become immaterial once the Statements of Poll have been completed. The call is mischievous and can lead to problems as was the case in 2015 in Sophia where ignoramuses spread malicious and false rumours about ballot boxes being stored at a location which was being used as a Command Centre of the PPPC.
There also is no need for party supporters to be outside of any polling station during the hours of polling. In fact, it is not lawful for them to be within a certain perimeter of the polling station. Their presence can constitute more than just campaigning; it can place voters under duress.
The call for the massing of party supporters at polling stations caused problems in the 2015 elections when the party supporters outside of a polling station in Lodge accosted a PPPC candidate who was going to check on his polling agents.
The PNCR Leader had to arrive to escort the PPPC candidate to safety. That incident alone should have deterred the PNCR from even thinking about having their supporters work the ‘dayshift’ and the ‘nightshift’.
Politicians must desist from careless and useless talk. In 1997, there was all manner of loose talk about ballot boxes floating in the Demerara River. A man who bought empty bottles was accused of having ballot boxes stored in his house. The poor soul was kidnapped by PNC thugs and taken to Congress Place where he was interviewed by none other than PNC leader, Hugh Desmond Hoyte.
Troublemakers are out there looking for a reason to cause problems. They are anxious to seize the chance to burn, beat, loot and rob. The politicians must not inadvertently create the environment for them to do so because innocent people will suffer.
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