The United National Congress (UNC) will continue its general election recount campaign, denying it is obstructing the process.
At a press conference at the party’s Eastern Regional Office in El Dorado on Saturday, several candidates outlined the issues and irregularities they claimed were reported in their constituencies.
They also asked for documents from the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC), which they say they were denied.
UNC PRO Anita Haynes said the recount was a vital part of the country’s democratic process. She said it was not just counting the ballots but a verification of ballots.
She said the Prime Minister refused to produce the correspondence requesting international observers, and the People’s National Movement (PNM) was now attempting to pressure citizens to abandon the recount process.
“We have a responsibility to the hundreds of thousands of persons who voted for new governance to ensure that this recount takes place and it is done so that we could have full confidence in our democratic process.”
Sean Sobers, candidate for San Fernando West, said at Gulf View some people waited about three and a half hours to vote.
“Several correspondences would have been written to the returning officer and to the EBC to treat with those issues.”
Other issues included “irregular initials” on ballots, and high numbers of “white polling cards,” which are usually issued at polling stations if voters do not have their poll cards or ID cards.
The UNC requested sample initials so the party could compare the initials on the ballots as part of the check, since the initials of officials varied from ballot paper to ballot paper. They also asked to view the station diary in which the white polling cards are usually recorded in order to verify the validity of those cards.
The EBC refused both requests.
Candidate for St Joseph Ahloy Hunt said he noticed ballot boxes and envelopes that were either unsealed or had damaged seals. In addition he said the party was short or extra on votes and asked to examine polling ballot stubs to pair them with ballots, but was denied again.
“In one particular ballot box, on the statement of poll, we had a figure that was decreased by ten. When they opened the envelope they found ten PNM votes in our pile, which they took out.
“But we had 76 and the question was, ‘So where is our ten?’ Because we had 76.’”
A statement of poll was issued to a UNC agent with all the official signatures. He said when that ballot box was checked on Friday night, the figures had been tampered with, so a report was made to the police.
“The doctored figures had no initials by these persons, indicating that whoever tampered with the document did so fraudulently.”
Candidate for Tunapuna David Nakhid added that during the recount for his constituency, 25 ballot boxes were recounted without a UNC representative present. He said the arrangement with the returning officer was to count from 9 am-5 pm, but a PNM representative asked for the count to go on longer and the EBC complied, without discussion with the UNC.
He said they stayed until 6 pm, but the count went on until 11 pm. That happened on three days – Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.On the first day four boxes were counted without the UNC presence, he aid, on the second day, five boxes were counted, and on the third, 16 were counted.
“In a normal day we have counted eight boxes from nine to five. They counted 16 boxes from six to 11. Now, that is highly suspicious.”
Similar to the other candidates, La Horquetta/Talparo candidate Jearlean John also had questions about the white polling cards. She said in polling stations where the PNM was competitive in her area, there was a high percentage of white polling cards.
For example, she said the percentage at polling stations was usually around ten-20 per cent, but in Wallerfield, the percentage of voters with white polling cards was about 70 per cent. She therefore called for an investigation.
She said there were also “stamp-related” issues: in the recount it was noted that ballots stamped for the PNM all had the same irregularity in that they were not clearly stamped, as if the ballot papers had been hastily stamped.
Dave Tancoo, UNC general secretary and Oropouche West MP-elect stressed that the documents the party was asking for would ensure transparency and integrity of the electoral process. He said it was concerning that the EBC was resisting, and so leaving room for speculation.
As previously reported, the numbers of votes to be recounted were 15,515 in San Fernando, 18,237 in Toco/Sangre Grande, 17,317 in Tunapuna, 18,193 in St Joseph, and 17,678 in La Horquetta/Talparo.
The EBC confirmed the recount for San Fernando West had been completed and the results indicated that PNM candidate Faris Al-Rawi was the winner. However, the EBC did not release the official numbers.