PNP lawyer promises short-lived JLP victory in Westmoreland Eastern

PNP lawyer promises short-lived JLP victory in Westmoreland Eastern

Observer writer

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

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SAVANNA-LA-MAR, Westmoreland — Maurice McCurdy, the lead attorney representing Luther Buchanan, the People's National Party's (PNP) candidate in the Westmoreland Eastern magisterial recount, has given notice that the party will be taking the recount to the Election Petition Court.

McCurdy disclosed at the end of day three of the magisterial recount in the Westmoreland Parish Court that there was a breach in a particular polling division.

“We have a case of contamination in a polling division in Eastern Westmoreland. Nobody can say who that person voted for, and that is the problem. But what is clear, that person was not entitled to vote. So, to cure that, we will be making an application based on the Elections Petition Act to have the entire polling division voided, especially in light of the arrest by the police today [yesterday],” McCurdy told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

However, the superintendent in charge of the Westmoreland Police Division, Robert Gordon, told the Observer that following an investigation into the matter of voter fraud, there is no evidence to substantiate such a claim.

Earlier in the day, the legal team representing Buchanan received a double whammy when two issues they brought up were not accepted in their favour by Parish Judge Steve Walters, who is presiding over the proceedings.

One of the issues had to do with allegations that an individual voted twice. But O'Neil Brown, lead attorney for the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) candidate Daniel Lawrence, pointed out that McCurdy was wasting the court's time, as a parish court conducting the magisterial recount is not the place to address such a complaint.

Judge Walters concurred, stressing that the court's time should not be wasted on matters that cannot be addressed at the recount.

McCurdy also made a second attempt to get the court to accept ballots previously rejected. However, Judge Walters upheld a ruling he had made on Saturday in which he stated that he was unable to accept a ballot without a mark resembling an 'X', based on what Section 35 of the Representation of the People Act stipulates.

The ballot in question, which was found in box 48, had a mark that did not clearly resemble an 'X'.

However, McCurdy yesterday stated that in 2016 Judge Ann Marie Grainger had accepted a mark resembling a tick as the voter's intent, in the magisterial recount with former mayor of Montego Bay and current Member of Parliament-elect for St James Southern Homer Davis and Derrick Kellier of the PNP.

He also stated that the attorney general in the past had accepted ticks and marks that were not crosses, adding that there is no election petition case that shows that both women were wrong.

McCurdy further asked Judge Walters if he was restrained to accept marks other than the cross.

Judge Walters, in his ruling, said: “If I should use your terms, I am restrained from accepting it based on the Representation of the People Act which states that there must be a cross — and that is what I have been doing here from day one.”

At the end of yesterday's recount, Lawrence had obtained 2,088 votes while Buchanan polled 1,702.

With Friday's and Saturday's numbers added to yesterday's count, Lawrence would have amassed 4,543 votes and Buchanan 4,253.

A total of 26 rejected ballots were accepted on behalf of Lawrence and 15 for Buchanan, from a total of 107 boxes counted. Independent candidate Haile Mika'el received a total of 30 votes.

The remaining 10 boxes are expected to be counted today.

Brown told reporters that, “Based on our analysis and what has transpired today [Monday], we are of the considered view that the numbers are on our side and we feel confident that should the numbers go as we assessed them, our candidate Mr Lawrence will be victorious.

“So, we will await the counting of the 10 boxes tomorrow [today] to complete,” said Brown.

But McCurdy is of the opinion that any victory for the JLP at this time will be short-lived, as his client will be going to Parliament at the end of a rerun of the seat.

Lawyers representing Lawrence filed an application for a magisterial recount on September 8, after an official count by the Electoral Office of Jamaica declared Buchanan the winner in the constituency by one vote following the intervention of the returning officer.

Both men had obtained 4,834 votes while Mika'el had amassed 34. A total of 107 ballots were rejected.

As a result of the tie, the returning officer for the constituency cast the deciding vote by blindly pulling one of two ballots with the names of both candidates from a box. The ballot with Buchanan's name was drawn.

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