CCJ ruling did not disavow need for valid votes only for declaration – Attorney-at-law Mayo Robertson

— says CEO still bound by law to present valid votes tabulation to GECOM

DPI, Guyana, Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Attorney-at-law Mayo Robertson today said the ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) did not interfere with the Chief Elections Officer’s (CEO) responsibility to tabulate only valid votes in the preparation of his report.

Robertson has been representing private citizen Eslyn David who, under Article 177 (4) of the Constitution, approached the Court of Appeal last month, asking that it interpret the words “more votes cast” as set out in Article 177 (2) (b) of the Constitution and in accordance with Order No. 60 or the National Recount Order.

In its June 22 decision, the Court ruled that the term “more votes cast” should be interpreted as “more valid votes cast” and that the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) must consider this when determining the results of the March 2, General and Regional Elections.

The CCJ this afternoon, however, assumed jurisdiction to review the decision of the Court of Appeal, ruling that Guyana’s Court was wrong in its decision although the Constitution in Article 177 (4) empowers the Court of Appeal to decide on such matters which are also final.

Robertson said while the ruling was a “little disappointing,” one must not overplay the effect of that ruling.

“The court has confirmed that only valid votes could be used. Also, the court has not changed our constitution. The court has certainly not suggested that the CEO does not have to prepare a report. He still has to prepare a report as required by the constitution and it is still on the basis of that report that the Chair can proceed on the declaration process,” Robertson said moments after the ruling.

He said while the court agreed to take jurisdiction, the decision is not “earth-shaking” as it did not disavow the concept that only valid votes could be used in the tabulation and has also reaffirmed the position of the CEO in respect to the report.

“What the court did not do is interfere with the concept that valid votes must be the governing principle when the CEO prepares his report. So, the CEO has to go back and do his report and the report has to be a tabulation of valid votes.”

He said the CCJ reaffirmed the concept of a valid vote and it is clear that “our law requires the CEO to provide a report based on valid votes.”

The CCJ in its ruling had also asked that the CEO’s report be set aside although it was not an argument set out in any of the submissions. Robertson said the decision is not inconsistent with the ruling since the CEO`s report was premised on the decision of the Court of Appeal.

“The court did not say x number of votes are valid or y number of votes are valid. It simply said the decision of the Court of Appeal was wrong so that the CEO report which was based on the court of appeal decision should be set aside. They did not say that the CEO should not go and prepare a report based on valid votes and I expect that that is what he will do,”.

Robertson said the CCJ’s ruling in effect, is not very much different from what his client was seeking.

“Remember we went to the Court of Appeal under 177 (4) to get the court to agree that only valid votes could be used in the tabulation to decide on who should be declared the president.”

He has cautioned however that it may be a bit premature for “anyone to be breaking out the champagne.”

“I would urge first that we first get the court’s written decision and see what exactly what the court has said.”