By Shikema Dey
The human error of a young Assistant Presiding Officer (APO) resulted in a total of 83 ballots being deemed void from the Sophia Nursery School polling place, lower level polling station L-Z 41333Ciii.
At the recount yesterday, ballot box #4549 was opened and recounted and the alarming numbers of rejected ballots were discovered. Incidentally, this was the same box that APNU+AFC Coalition objected to on May 22, two weeks ago, despite the box not yet opened to be counted.
On the Observation Report seen by Kaieteur News, it stated that 83 General ballots were rejected; 82 for want of the official Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) six-digit stamp and the remaining ballot because it was marked for more than one party’s list of candidates.
According to the Report, of those 82 rejected ballots, 69 were clearly marked for the APNU+AFC Coalition while 12 were clearly marked for the Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and one was unmarked. Additionally, three Regional ballots were rejected; two for want of official mark and one marked for more than one party list of candidates. A check of the Statement of Poll (SOP) for that ballot box shows identical numbers of rejected ballots.
The Presiding Officer of the polling station cited that an inexperienced APO resulted in the high number of rejected ballots.
“Please be advised, I observed the APO was folding the ballot paper incorrectly, I immediately corrected her and showed her how to fold and stamp the ballots for the regular voters. Consequent to a very busy morning, and working with new persons who never worked with the GECOM election, I had to pay attention to all new persons employed in my team,” the PO detailed.
The Coalition had raised allegations of a large number of rejected ballots being discovered in their strongholds. In fact, the party had raised objections to this ballot box but the accusation was made prematurely, weeks before the box was opened to be recounted.
“Breaking news: Sophia Nursery School, at the lower level polling station L-Z 41333Ciii, our agent found 61 unstamped ballots (INVALID). Presiding Officer failed to stamp” read a post on the official APNU+AFC Facebook page on May 22.
The issue of unstamped ballots is still being addressed at the level of the GECOM Commission with no decision being taken on the way forward despite the numbers deemed “concerning” by the elections body. So far, for the general recount, a total of 1,536 rejected ballots across the five tabulated regions were discovered. Of that figure, 380 came from District One; 251 from District Two; 485 for District Three; 256 for District Five and 164 from District Seven. This figure excludes the 83 found in ballot box #4549.
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