​Challenging to access tally sheet in election petitions

Access to the electoral roll and official tally sheets from the Electoral Commission, after the 2012 National Election, was a challenge for lawyers involved in election petition matters before the court.

A lawyer who was involved in 18 election petition matters from 2012 highlighted this when giving lawyer’s perspective on application of petition rules and issues that arise from election petitions.

Christine Copland acted for nine MPs from the 2012 elections in the court of disputed returns.

Six of those matters were successfully dismissed after objections were raised on the competency of the petitions filed, mainly due to incorrect pleadings stated in the petitions, supported by the relevant laws.

She said from the 2012 elections, the electoral roll and official tally sheets were not made available to parties quickly by the Electoral Commission.

They were made available either on the day of the trial or during the trial.  

Copland said the requests for the tally and forms can only be made after the election petition is filed in court.

The tally sheet is signed off by the respective returning officers. It contains what is called Form 66(a), which is the first preference count and Form 66 (b), which is signed off after elimination and before a declaration is made.  

Election petitions must be filed within 40 days of the declaration of the seat and there have been instances where the petitioner instructs lawyers to file the petition on the 40th day.

She said if the petitions are filed earlier, there is time for the request of the forms to be made.

She also gave a timeframe in which the matters were disposed of by the courts.

The shortest was six months and the longest took nearly 5 years due to the petition going to the Supreme Court for review and being reverted to the National Court.

Sally Pokiton