Oversight led to uncounted pre-poll ballots: CEO Anisi

BY JENNIFER KUSAPA

IN a recent electoral oversight in the Solomon Islands, a crucial error occurred as pre-poll ballots were left uncounted due to an administrative mistake.

Chief Electoral Officer Jasper Highwood Anisi said it was accidently forgotten by Electoral officials.

He said when officers at the head office reconcile their data it came to light that certain pre-poll ballots for Isabel province were not included in the batches for counting.

These were the pre-poll ballots from Honiara that was handed over to the Isabel Electoral officials, before the counting started.

These overlooked ballots were found locked away in an electoral official’s room, unnoticed until the eleventh hour. The failure to include them in the count was an unintended oversight, Anisi said.

He explained the only process to rely on now is through the High Court of Solomon Islands, for the other two constituencies Maringe/Kokota and Hograno/ Kia/Havulei, the margin difference between the winner and runner-up was a big margin and so is not an issue.

However, for Gao/Bugotu constituency uncounted ballot was 13 and the margin between the winner and the runner-up 13 so it’s an issue, Anisi said

The court must issue an order to verify the uncounted pre-poll ballots for the Gao-Bugotu constituency. Depending on the outcome, if a tie arises among candidates, a fresh count will be mandated. However, if the margin between candidates remains unaffected by the uncounted ballots, the previously declared results may stand.

Anisi responding to questions raised on what consequences the Returning Officer or Electoral Officials will face, according to law there is no clear regulation, but emphasizes the need to assess each case on its merits, distinguishing between unintentional errors and deliberate misconduct. If foul play is suspected, the Commission will initiate an investigation and take appropriate action.

Anisi acknowledges the Commission’s responsibility for the oversight and plans to address it transparently. Recognizing the potential impact of the uncounted ballots on the election outcome, the Commission will write to the Attorney-General requesting to issue a status petition under section 109 of the Electoral Act, to enable the court to open the envelope of uncounted pre-poll ballot papers to determine the manner in which those 13 voters had voted.

The Solomon Islands Electoral Commission remains committed to preserving the fairness and accuracy of the electoral process, despite the challenges encountered.

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