Referendum observers briefed by officials

MLAs may be scrutineers, deputy supervisor of elections points out

Almost 200 people turned out on Thursday night for a briefing on their duties as observers or scrutineers for the 18 July referendum on the question of “one man, one vote”. 

In welcoming them to the Mary Miller Hall in Red Bay, Supervisor of Elections Kearney Gomez explained that the observers had been appointed by Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor, while scrutineers were appointed by either Premier McKeeva Bush or Leader of the Opposition Alden McLaughlin. 

But their functions are the same, emphasised Deputy Supervisor Orrett Connor, who conducted most of the training session. 

The Referendum Law does not preclude Members of the Legislative Assembly from being scrutineers, he said. 

“It will not be unusual to see an MLA sitting next to you on polling day,” Mr. Connor advised. “Their job is the same as yours … No more, no less.” 

The Referendum (Single-member Constituencies) Law states that the governor may, in writing, appoint persons to observe the conduct of the referendum, the verification of the ballot paper accounts and the counting of the votes. The premier and the leader of the opposition may each, in writing, appoint two persons in respect of each polling station and each counting station for the same purposes. 

The term observers in the rest of this article includes both those appointed by the governor and those appointed politically. 

The observers’ job includes being at their assigned polling station by 6.30am at the latest to be ready for the 7am opening. They will check that the ballot box is empty before it is locked for voting; they will be invited to sign the official seals on the box. At the close of voting, they will observe the closing of the ballot box slot, which physically cannot be reopened except from the inside after the box is unlocked. Observers will be invited to accompany the ballot box to the counting station. 

While the polls are open, observers will have a copy of the voters list to follow as each voter comes in to cast his or her ballot. The voter is required to state name, occupation and address in such a way that observers can hear the information. Observers may strike out or mark the name on their list as each person comes to vote. This is a way of keeping track so that no individual presents himself as someone else, Mr. Connor explained. 

If there is a perceived irregularity, the observer is to bring it to the attention of referendum officials. 

Some observers will be working only at the polling stations, half day or full day. Others will work at a polling station and a counting station. 

The reason for having observers is to make the voting process transparent, Mr. Connor said. They ensure the integrity of the process.  

Deputy Supervisor of Elections Colford Scott said there will be 39 polling stations and six counting stations. He gave a preview of material to be covered in a further training session for observers assigned to a counting station. 

He said an observer can inspect the face of any ballot during the counting process to see where the “X” is placed. An observer can also challenge the final tally for any portion of ballots counted. 

Counting stations will be the civic centres in Cayman Brac, North Side and East End; the Savannah Primary School Hall in Bodden Town; the Sir John A. Cumber Primary School Hall in West Bay and the Family Life Centre in George Town. The final results will be brought to the Referendum Command Centre, at the Family Life Centre. Mr. Scott said there will be regular update from the districts in the course of counting, so people can stay home and follow proceedings on radio, television and websites. 

All observers had their photographs taken for an identification card to be issued by the Elections Office. 

referendum observers

As Sharon Welcome signs in for the observers training session, Robert Bodden checks assignments and Salome Henry, back to camera, prepares to hand out letters of appointment.

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