Deputy Paul Le Claire has submitted an application to the Royal Court for a recount of the votes cast in the District No.1 St Helier election held on 19th October, at which he “just missed out” by 17 votes to Deputy Judy Martin. The Royal Court will hear the matter on Tuesday 8th November at 10 a.m. Candidates may attend if they wish. I shall be there and intend to speak.
As stated in his Affidavit in support of the application, Deputy Le Claire believes “the count may have been inaccurate and given the small number of votes between me and the next candidate [Judy Martin], even a small discrepancy could make a significant difference to the final result.”
He further states that following the announcement of the results on the night in the Town Hall he went into a state of shock and did not have the requisite presence of mind to call for an immediate recount.
He complains that the Jurat in charge did not offer a recount and did not mention the number of postal votes or pre poll votes.
A recount is unlikely to save Deputy Le Claire’s career. Some will present it as a last desperate act. I have no objection to a recount as it will hopefully verify aspects of the counting that I was personally not able or allowed to witness at the count.
“Its not who casts the votes, but who counts them” (old Irish saying)
I was the only candidate to be present during the poll and at the count. I have often criticized candidates for their lack of concern about the mechanism by which the result is arrived at. None of the other seven candidates cared to be present at the count or to appoint an agent on their behalf.
I was told by the Jurat that there were 15 postal votes, of which there were 2 spoilt and 286 pre-poll ballots. It was announced that 1810 people voted out of 5059 on the electoral register giving a 36.09% turnout. 18 ballots were deemed spoilt.
I was not shown the eighteen spoilt ballot papers, of which two were presumably discounted postal votes. I was shown one ballot paper which had scrawled across its face the words “none of the above”.
The initial check taken on the evening was to open separately the ballot boxes for the Senatorial and Deputy elections in District 1 and remove any ballots [Senatorial – white; Deputies – yellow] that may have been placed in the wrong box. This ensured that all ballots were in the correct boxes ready for counting.
The Deputies’ ballot box was emptied for a second time and the count begun. Counters took wads of 25 ballots and with a partner began the count, recording the result on a designated counting sheet.
Pairs of counters counting 25 ballots
I was able to observe three separate pairs of counters and mistakes were made in my presence. One couple got confused in the counting and votes were not accurately recorded on the sheet, resulting in a new sheet having to be started. The same pair also had to add a new totaling line to the sheet because they had mis-recorded the votes of one ballot and in making corrections made the column illegible.
I personally saw one spoilt ballot where the voter had used four votes instead of the maximum number of three. This ballot was removed to the Jurat and a replacement given to the counters to make up their 25. Ticks instead of crosses were deemed acceptable, as the intention was clear.
One counter complained to me that my presence was putting her off, to which I replied it was precisely why I was there and to witness if errors were made.
As the counter with ballot called out the name of the candidate/s that had received a vote, the partner marked the record sheet with a diagonal mark against that individual’s name. The process was then reversed with the previous counter calling out the names and the partner completing a further diagonal mark on the sheet to make a cross. This was repeated for each of the 25 ballots. This meant there was a double check. The number of votes cast for each candidate was totaled and tallied on the counting sheet.
The counting sheet with the ballots wrapped inside was then taken away to the Jurat for tallying. This was done by a computer operator on a spread sheet.