PNP headed to court to challenge the record number of rejected ballots in Clarendon North Western

Senior staff reporter

Thursday, September 10, 2020

THE Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) says it is unperturbed by the People's National Party's (PNP) decision to request a magisterial recount of ballots cast in Clarendon North Western after yesterday's disclosure that more than 1,000 ballots were rejected during the counting of the votes cast in the September 3 General Election.

The preliminary count indicated that the JLP's Phillip Henriques polled 6,124 votes to the 6,009 tallied by the PNP's incumbent Richard Azan. Independent candidate Merrick Cohen received 51 votes.

After a four-day process, the official count, however, saw Henriques' margin of victory decreasing to 83 votes as he accumulated 5,630 to Azan's 5,547. Cohen received 46 votes.

There were 1,107 rejected ballots.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Azan noted that “it is not the results we were hoping for but God knows best... We lost by 83 votes. God bless you all”.

When contacted by the Jamaica Observer for a comment yesterday Azan, through an assistant, indicated that he was locked in a meeting with his campaign team and could not come to the phone.

But PNP General Secretary Julian Robinson confirmed to the Observer that the party was in the process of preparing documents to file the magisterial recount today.

In the meantime, a confident Henriques yesterday declared that he was not interested in any recount given that he had more rejected ballots than his opponent.

In commenting on the number of rejected ballots, the Member of Parliament-elect said that was a matter best addressed by the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ).

“I think that the electoral office is really the organisation that needs to examine the process and why so many were rejected. My only position really at this time is that we, the JLP and myself, ended up having more votes rejected than the PNP and as such if there was some recount or whatever I'm not sure that it would change the overall outcome,” Henriques told the Observer when contacted.

“I have no personal interest in going to a magisterial recount from the perspective of gaining more votes. The matter was counted, the position was taken and I abided by it. So it would have to be something Mr Azan would have to take up,” added Henriques.

But Director of Elections Glasspole Brown said that the outcome of the final count is the prerogative of the returning officer.

“The returning officer would have examined each ballot and would have determined, based on his examination, whether or not the ballot ought to be rejected and he did so. I have not seen the ballot so I could not make a comment in terms of whether or not he took the right decision. Suffice to say though that he would have examined all the ballots and then he would have determined what's acceptable and what's not,” Brown told the Observer.

At the same time, he said there is no concern on the part of the organisation about the design of the ballot and whether or not it creates room for an error to be committed by the elector.

“ROPA [Representation of the People's Act] is clear that an X ought to be marked. It is known exactly what an X ought to look like. I don't think it has reached a point of concern in terms of what is acceptable from what is not acceptable as a proper marking of the X. I don't think we have reached that point of being overly concerned,” said Brown.

The JLP thrashed the PNP last Thursday, to command 48 of the 63 parliamentary seats.

Lawyers representing the JLP are also headed to court for magisterial recounts in three constituencies where its candidates suffered narrow defeats.

The first recount is scheduled to begin tomorrow in Westmoreland Eastern where the PNP's Luther Buchanan was declared the winner by one vote over the JLP's Daniel Lawrence after the returning officer for the constituency cast the deciding vote.

Magisterial recounts are also scheduled for St Catherine North Western where the JLP's Newton Amos lost by 22 votes to the PNP's Hugh Graham and St Ann South Eastern where the PNP's Lisa Hanna squeezed out a 32-vote win over the JLP's Delroy Granston.



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