Friday 9 December 2016

Judge rejects votes for election count over perforation issue with ballot paper

Published 11/02/2016 | 13:17

Judge O’Donnell made the ruling at Limerick Circuit Court where he was adjudicating on 32 disputed ballots
Judge O’Donnell made the ruling at Limerick Circuit Court where he was adjudicating on 32 disputed ballots

A Circuit Court judge has rejected votes being included in the valid poll for an election count where the perforation was on the counterfoil and not on the ballot paper.

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Judge Tom O’Donnell also overruled the returning officer at the count afresh for the Listowel Electoral Area in the 2014 Local Elections on nine recommendations he’d made on ‘suspect’ ballots.

Judge O’Donnell made the ruling at Limerick Circuit Court where he was adjudicating on 32 disputed ballots.

The count afresh for the Listowel area follows a successful Supreme Court challenge by former Fianna Fáil senator Dan Kiely, who stood as an Independent candidate but lost out on a seat by two votes.

Returning officer Charlie O’Sullivan had recommended that five of the 32 ballots be rejected and 27 be allowed in the valid poll.

However, following lengthy legal argument on behalf of candidates in the election, Judge O’Donnell allowed only 18 of these to be accepted as part of the valid poll.

In relation to six papers where the perforation was on the counterfoil, Judge O’Donnell said: “Ballot papers and counterfoils must be treated as separate documents and these did not comply with the legal requirements and so must be rejected in full.”

The judge also rejected papers that had any writing on them. These included a ballot paper, where the voter had written, “Jobs for north Kerry now” and another ballot where the voter expressed preferences 1, 2 and 3 but put an ‘X’ alongside every other name.

The voter had clarified at the top of the ballot paper: “X = No”.

Mr O’Sullivan had recommended both of these be accepted as valid because he argued they didn’t reveal the identity of the voters.

He told Limerick Circuit Court that between 800 and 900 ballot papers were deemed suspect and the 15 candidates or their agents were invited to inspect these.

Following lengthy adjudications, he said the agents failed to reach agreement on 32 ballots.

These were photocopied and remain in a sealed envelope at the count centre at John Mitchel’s GAA Club in Tralee.

The originals were transported to Limerick under Garda escort this morning.

Mr Kiely was represented in court by barrister Liz Murphy instructed by Paul O’Donoghue.

There was also representation in court for Cllr Mike Kennelly (FG), who won the last seat on the 11th count, beating Mr Kiely by only two votes.

Cllr Jimmy Moloney (FF), Cllrs Aoife Thorton and Liam Purtill (FG) and candidates Michael O’Gorman, Pat Leahy and Katie Ludid-McCabe were also represented in court.

Judge O’Donnell said he wished to acknowledge the hard work of the returning officer and the agents in narrowing the suspect papers down to 32.

The count afresh resumes in Tralee at 2.30pm.

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