NDP Chair says he didn’t hear Eustace’s ‘voting twice’ comment
May 15, 2015
NDP Chair says he didn’t hear Eustace’s ‘voting twice’ comment

Chair of the New Democratic Party (NDP) Linton Lewis says he did not hear the comments made on radio by party leader Arnhim Eustace that at least 250 people may have voted more than once in the last general elections.

Lewis made the disclosure on May 7, during a meeting of representatives of the NDP with supervisor of elections Sylvia Findlay, which had been called to discuss Eustace’s concerns.{{more}}

Further, Lewis said he had not seen the articles that were carried in two local newspapers about Eustace’s concerns, nor had he been privy to the letters of correspondence between Eustace and Findlay in relation to the matter.

Despite not being up to speed on the matter, Lewis stated that he had come to the meeting with an open mind.

“I appreciate you giving the opportunity to clarify certain things,” Lewis told Findlay at the meeting.

Besides Lewis, the other NDP representatives at the meeting were Noel Dickson, the NDP candidate for the South Windward constituency and Elmore Edwards, NDP committee member.

Other electoral office staff members present were deputy supervisor of elections Sylvester King and systems administrator Kadean Williams. Two members of the local media, including Bria King of SEARCHLIGHT, were also present, having been invited to observe the proceedings.

With the help of the systems administrator, the representatives were shown electronic records for some of the names that appeared more than once on the Voter’s List.

Names that consisted of the same first name, middle name or initial and surname, particularly where the middle name was an unusual one, seemed to be of particular interest to the NDP representatives.

By inspecting different fields of each record, including occupation, date of birth and photograph, the NDP representatives were able to ascertain that the people carrying identical names were in fact different people. In some cases, it was believed that the two persons with the same first, middle and last name were either mother and daughter or father and son.

Edwards opined that it would have been easy to verify that the persons were not the same if the date of birth had been included in one of the columns of the Voter’s List.

However, the supervisor of elections explained that this field is not included on the printed document because it would be an infringement of privacy. Findlay also noted that date of birth has never been included in any printed version of the Voter’s List.

Furthermore, she pointed out that the list was the same one that was used in the 2009 referendum and the 2010 General Elections and on both those occasions, the NDP did not indicate any issues with the list.

She also stated that if any issues were raised by the party agents, who observed the voting process in various constituencies, then they should have been reported to the electoral office at that time, in order for the office to act efficiently to resolve the matter.

Following general elections, the electoral office has a mandate to destroy all documents used, within a one-year period. However, in a case where agents claimed that persons had said that they voted twice, Findlay explained that this could have been verified by looking at the records before they were destroyed.

The supervisor of elections used the opportunity to highlight some of the mechanisms in place to ensure that one person does not vote twice. The electoral ink, she said, plays a significant role, because once a person has dipped their index finger into the ink, everyone would know that they had already voted.

At the end of the meeting, Dickson expressed the opinion that it was “a valuable exercise.”

Findlay made the commitment to the representatives that in future, once their concerns are reported to the office, she will facilitate similar meetings if necessary, to appease their concerns.

She also advised the NDP representatives that should they have an issue with the workings of the Electoral Office, they should attempt to settle matters in-house, before going public.

Findlay stated during the meeting that statements made by the Opposition Leader in public may have influenced persons to question the integrity of the Electoral Office and her own integrity as the head of the office.

However, Edwards said the statements made by the Opposition Leader were not, in any way, an attempt to “point fingers” at the management of the office.

He stated that it had become necessary to seek clarity on the “duplicate” names so that party executives could advise their agents on signs to look for on Election Day with regards to persons who may try to vote twice.

“Many of our agents are concerned about persons who attempt to vote twice or have heard persons saying that they have voted twice,” the committee member told persons present at the meeting.

Dickson, in his comments, said the NDP is aware that the supervisor of elections has a character to uphold and they were simply seeking to ensure that all processes are carried out in the correct manner, so that the reputation of the office is not tarnished.

There has not yet been an official response from the NDP, but party president Arnhim Eustace told SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday that he is to receive a full report from his nominees about the meeting. (BK)