November 27, 2009
Woman says presiding officer tore her ballot

The Dorsetshire Hill polling station was the scene of a noisy dispute around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday when Judy Gibson objected strongly to her ballot being declared spoilt by the presiding officer.{{more}}

Gibson angrily explained her plight to Searchlight some distance from the polling station, charging that presiding officer, Goaland Greaves, tore her ballot after allegedly telling her she had not dipped her finger sufficiently into the ink.

The law requires each voter to dip his or her right index finger in a jar of dark coloured ink as an indication that his or her ballot has already been cast.

Gibson said that when she completed her vote she gave her ballot to Greaves, then dipped her finger into the ink and showed it to him. She added the presiding officer instructed her to dip her finger again so that it covered more of it, but she objected, telling him there was enough ink already covering the tip.

It was then that Gibson said that Greaves tore her ballot into pieces after which she began to protest and said she was escorted outside the polling station by a police officer. Searchlight spoke with Greaves, who said that he could not comment on the matter, redirecting the newspaper to officials at the Electoral Office.

Gibson, who paced up and down in the street, questioned Greaves motives for tearing the ballot, and found support from several persons who gathered around her.

“I ain’t going to vote again!” she declared.

She then pointed to another voter who had cast his ballot in the same station and had no more ink on his finger than her, as well as one who voted at the same station and had his finger covered with ink, similar to hers.

Gibson reported that she contacted Minister of National Mobilisation, Michael Browne, who arrived at the polling station about 45 minutes later. He spoke with Gibson as well as the presiding officer and an official from the Electoral Office. Browne then pointed out he could not intervene in the matter but that it would be sorted out by the officials at the Electoral Office.

In response to the issue, Supervisor of Elections Sylvia Findlay-Scrubb told Searchlight she had heard both sides of the story. She said that Greaves said that he did not see Gibson put her finger into the ink. He then called out to her before putting the ballot into the box. Gibson did not return which is when Greaves said that he tore the ballot in two pieces to make it void.

Findlay-Scrubb explained that a ballot could be declared spoilt if a voter refuses to place their finger into the ink and the person should ensure that the presiding officer places the ballot into the box before leaving the polling station. She added that if a voter leaves the station with the completed ballot they can be fined.

Gibson’s was the only major voting dispute related to Searchlight on Wednesday, although in the Southern Grenadines a voter did not dip her finger in the ink on the grounds that she was allergic to it, and her ballot was subsequently voided.