Election observers: Aim is to keep voting clean

The days of voters being slipped a piece of paper with the names of candidates they should vote for on election day at the polls are over. 

It’s one of the naughty shenanigans that election observers will be on the lookout for during the 22 May General Election. 

Local and overseas observers will watch whether polling stations open on time; how election workers deal with voters as they go to the polling stations; whether candidates or agents are interfering with voters; the chain of custody of ballot boxes. 

Deputy Supervisor of Elections Orrett Connor listed these and other points when he responded to questions from the officers during their third training session Tuesday night. 

Mr. Connor said overseas and local observers will be appointed by Supervisor of Elections Kearney Gomez and the terms of their appointment will enable them to go to any station. They will be allowed to sit inside, but they will be moving around to polling stations throughout Grand Cayman. It was not yet clear whether they will go to polling stations on Cayman Brac.
The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, British Isles and Mediterranean Region, will arrange and lead a mission of up to 10 individuals for election observation. Mr. Connor said there will also be 12 local observers. 

Those from overseas will wear identifying vests, while the local observers will have badges. Presiding officers at all polling stations will have a list of observers’ names. 

Matters that are of concern to the visiting observers have been addressed in training sessions for election workers over the years. The workers appointed for 2013 are a mixture of veterans and newcomers and have been training together since February.  

Officials are confident polls will open on time, 7am, because they will have been physically set up and inspected in advance. Election workers will report to their stations by 5.30am. 

Poll clerks and presiding officers have been trained to deal with voters in a manner that Mr. Connor described as “cordial, but businesslike”. The Elections Law sets out procedures for the voting process, even to the wording of questions to be asked of a voter if he or she is challenged by a candidate or agent. 

Candidates and agents have had one training session with election officials and another is scheduled for Monday, 6 May. The law allows them to be present in the polling station to see voters and hear them give their name. They are not allowed to try to influence people how to vote on Election Day, Mr. Connor emphasised. 

It was known that in the previous election people were handed slips of paper with the names of candidates they should vote for, but that cannot be allowed, he said, and voters should take instructions only from election officials. 

Police officers on duty inside polling stations are there to assist the presiding officer and ensure that the ballot box is in safe proximity to the presiding officer. 

The integrity of the ballot boxes is provided for in several ways. At the candidates and agents’ session in April, Deputy Supervisor of Elections Colford Scott demonstrated the sealing of a ballot box with a padlock, a metal strip that could be removed only by cutting, and tape. 

One agent objected that there could be a duplicate key to the padlock, there could be a substitute metal strip, and the tape could be peeled off; so how could these measures guarantee that the ballot box would not be tampered with? 

Mr. Connor provided the answer. “The real check and balance is that you are there the entire time – during the voting process, the transportation of the ballot box to the counting station, during the counting.” 

The Elections Law provides that the presiding officer must show the empty ballot box to all present before sealing it at the start of polling. Then, “the box shall be placed on a table in full view of all present and shall be maintained there until the close of the poll.” 

In addition to their duty at the polling stations, police officers are required to escort the presiding officer as he or she carries the ballot box to the counting station and hands it over to the district returning officer. Police will not be in the counting stations but will provide security outside. 

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1 COMMENT

  1. The real check and balance is that you are there the entire time – during the voting process, the transportation of the ballot box to the counting station, during the counting.

    Check and balance is a system based regulation the likes of limiting police presence inside voting room while the election officer has the full control. Presence inside the polling room helps prevent and detect error or fraud but in no way limit the power of election officer, thus it is merely called poll watching.

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