Many applications were incomplete
The Elections Office sent out a press release on Sunday morning that carried a tone of frustration.
It was written on behalf of the returning officers for the six electoral districts; the officers to whom Governor Duncan Taylor issued writs last December that require them to return members to the Legislative Assembly by carrying out an election.
It points out that candidates were advised from the day of their nomination – 27 March – that they should begin appointing agents from early on.
The Elections Law says that candidates may appoint polling agents and counting agents at any time, “but at least 10 days before the commencement of the poll”. The appointment must be in writing and contain the agent’s name, address and the electoral district in which he or she is registered. The appointment must be signed by the candidate and given to the returning officer.
Three days before the General Elections, that appointment process was apparently not completed and the release was issued as a result. It states:
The returning officers wish to advise all candidates who have appointed agents to make those agents aware as to which polling stations they are assigned to.
Agents will only be sworn at their assigned stations where their identification badges have been delivered to. Due to the large numbers of agents appointed, returning officers are advising that agents be at their respective polling stations by no later than 6am on Wednesday to be sworn.
Candidates must also ensure that their elections agents be sworn before the polls open; otherwise they will not be allowed to enter any polling or counting stations. Elections agents are separate from polling and counting agents. Candidates were to advise the Elections Office by 5pm on Tuesday, 21 May, as to which polling stations their elections agents would be attending to be sworn, as their identification badges were sent to those stations for collection.
Elections Office staff have had to work for an inordinate period over the past week and throughout the weekend in order to bring some semblance of order to the many appointment of agents applications, many of which were incomplete. Returning officers urged candidates from Nomination Day to appoint their agents early in order to avoid just such a situation arising.
It should be noted that any agent appointed who has completed an application for a postal ballot or mobile voting on behalf of an elector or witnessed an elector’s signature on such forms is guilty of an offence.
This also applies to candidates. It should be further noted that any candidate or agent who witnessed the declaration of identity for an elector who has voted by postal ballot is guilty of an offence and the ballot of the elector is rejected.
This is another reason why returning officers and the Elections Office urged candidates to appoint agents early.