United Workers Party (UWP) candidate for the Grand Fond Constituency, Dr Thomson Fontaine is calling for a full investigation of why valid ballots cast in his favour in the December 8 national elections were rejected by a particular Returning Officer for reasons outside of the electoral laws.
Dr Fontaine described Tuesday December 9, when the votes cast in his Constituency were recounted, as the worst day of his life because he witnessed the Returning Officer Gwyneth Anselm and attorney-at-law Lennox Lawrence attempting to deny him votes that he considers rightfully his.
He accused Anselm of rejecting the ballots on Lawrence’s instructions, despite the fact that UWP representatives presented copies of relevant electoral laws that clearly validated the votes. The shocking actions of these two persons caused him to question whether he should be in Dominica, Fontaine said.
The UWP candidate contended that the rejection of valid votes cast for him came on the heels of massive bribery of electors in Grand Fond up to the day before elections, in addition to the fact that 42 persons who received bribes and were brought from overseas by the Dominica Labour Party (DLP), voted against him.
Fontaine claimed that Lawrence, at one point, turned his attention to the pool of votes already counted for Morne Jaune (in the Grand Fond Constituency) and challenged the validity of seven votes and the Returning Officer meekly obeyed and rejected the votes. “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” Fontaine said.
He pointed out that despite the fact that the electoral laws make no provisions for the thickness of marks or the straightness of lines, in cases where voters’ intentions on the ballot slips were clear, the Returning Officer rejected their marks because the ‘X’ was too thick, and also rejected cases where the voters’ hands were shaky, even though the lines and voters’ choice were clear.
Fontaine questioned why said 13 legitimate votes cast in his favour in his stronghold, River Cyrique, were rejected for frivolous frivolous reasons on the night of the preliminary count. A proper counting of these votes on election night would have given him the victory over his opponent.
And while he was able to get back 10 of these votes at the recount, the Returning Officer insisted on rejecting the other three for no valid reason.
Giving other instances of unfair vote rejection, Fontaine said in one case a voter drew a little saw on the ballot paper and put a clear ‘X’ near the UWP candidate’s name. The Returning Officer rejected that ballot, but accepted one for the DLP contestant where a voter drew a line at the front of the ‘X’.
In another case, the Returning Officer wanted to reject a ballot where a voter put an ‘X’ on the saw and Fontaine said he had to pressure her to consult with the Electoral Office to resolve the issue.
In light of these actions, Dr Fontaine said, he believes that theft of legitimate votes was an alternative plan for the DLP to steal his seat if the widespread bribery of voters together with the importation of illegal voters failed.
He went on to recommend that when there is a close race, determining the validity of disputed votes should not be put in the hands of local authorities, but should be decided on by credible independent persons.
Meanwhile, Dr Fontaine maintained that the count at Grand Fond was not sealed Monday night at the conclusion of the re-count because the UWP rightfully did not accept the tainted tally and refused to sign any acceptance of the count.