PHILIPSBURG–The Main Voting Bureau was within its rights to remove United St. Maarten Party (US Party) number fifteen candidate Dennis Williams from its slate for the September 26 parliamentary election, the Court of First Instance said Thursday. The party had filed a case to nullify the Main Voting Bureau’s decision to strike off its candidate.
At stake was the question whether US Party, headed by Member of Parliament (MP) Frans Richardson, was allowed to replace one of its candidates, Curtis Thomas, with new candidate Dennis Williams.
Such a swap is not allowed under the Electoral Ordinance and led the Main Voting Bureau, chaired by attorney-at-law Jason Rogers, to its August 19 decision to remove the candidate.
Prior to that date, US Party Board President Cecil Nicholas had filed a petition with the Court challenging the eventual decision of the Voting Bureau. The party was aware of the Bureau’s upcoming decision to strike the candidate and went to Court, a right granted under the Electoral Laws.
Rogers and Voting Bureau Vice-Chairwoman Tamara Richardson defended the Bureau’s decision to remove the candidate from the party’s list as this was in accordance with the electoral laws.
According to the Voting Bureau, US Party had failed to submit a “consent form” for Thomas and a statement concerning his eligibility.
Instead, two consent forms were submitted for Williams, “while said person is not mentioned on the list of candidates. Furthermore, it should be noted that the signatures on both consent forms are different. Please note that as the list of candidates has already been submitted, it is no longer possible to add or subtract persons from said list,” the Voting Bureau stated.
Represented by Nicholas and attorney-at-law Jairo Bloem, US Party had filed legal proceedings against Minister of General Affairs William Marlin, the Main Voting Bureau and Country St. Maarten, but only the case against Country St. Maarten was accepted by the Court.
As Rogers had pointed out, there is only “one” Nomination Day, referring to August 8, when all parties submitted their lists of candidates to the Main Voting Bureau. After Nomination Day, the Bureau sat to review the lists and supporting documents, and found that US Party had not handed in a declaration of candidacy form for Thomas.
The party was allowed to rectify that omission and other errors within three days. While other errors were corrected, the party submitted a new name for the #15 slot with a signed declaration.
Attorney Bloem argued that the Court should allow the party to have its #15 candidate of choice. He requested that the judge declare the Voting Bureau’s decision invalid and that the Bureau be ordered to rectify the mistake of removing the candidate or, alternatively, the Court should rectify the mistake as requested.
US Party believed it had a strong case in pointing out to the judge that Williams was the candidate who had signed the declaration to participate in the election, but his name mistakenly had been left off of the initial list that was submitted on Nomination Day. However, the Main Voting Bureau stuck to what was stated in the law and so did the judge.
The Court said the Electoral Ordinance was defined by a strict timeframe consisting of several subsequent steps in reaching the final publication of the candidates lists. Central on this timetable is the nomination of candidates, to which all other following timeframes are connected.
On Nomination Day, political parties that want to participate in an election are required to nominate their candidates by submitting a prescribed form with corresponding documents. Errors found by the Main Voting Bureau may be rectified, but also with a strict deadline.
The Court found that mistakes may be rectified for candidates who are mentioned on the submitted lists of candidates. As, in this case, only Thomas’ name was mentioned, the Voting Bureau had only given the opportunity to rectify mistakes concerning this candidate. Therefore, the scrapping of Thomas’ name from the ballot and leaving the #15 slot open had been done according to the law, the Judge said.
Even though his party lost the appeal, Richardson said on Thursday that the party would move “full speed ahead” towards the election, despite having Williams removed from the list. He said his party would move ahead with its 22 candidates on the campaign trail.
“We will continue to bring our message to the people of St. Maarten. We think it is unfortunate that our #15 candidate did not get the opportunity to participate in the election, but we know Dennis will still be part of the team and campaign vigorously for the party,” Richardson said.
US Party will not appeal the decision.
“Even though we have the right to appeal, we won’t. It would further hold up the process and the other parties are waiting to finalise their colours, et cetera. We will move forward and once we have obtained enough seats we will look at our electoral laws, because too many things are unclear or conflict with each other.
“We are happy with our lawyer’s performance in arguing our case, and we are looking forward to putting this behind us and moving on towards victory,” Richardson said.
Source: Daily Herald
US Party loses bid to get Dennis Williams on list