PHILIPSBURG--Ballots printed for the February 26 snap election are now confetti and a new batch has to be printed due to a printer’s error spotted by United Democrats, one of the six parties in the race for Parliament, on Friday morning.
Bureau Chairman Jason Rogers told The Daily Herald the Bureau “immediately took action” on verifying the party’s query, to get the ballots shredded and start the process of printing new correct ballots in time for Monday’s poll.
The now destroyed ballots had the order of two candidates on the United Democrats’ slate inadvertently changed. Candidate “Engel, Louis R.” (number 19) was interchanged with “Mercelina, Luc F.E.” (number 18).
The swap that made Engel number 18 and Mercelina 19 was not in accordance with the Bureau’s January 16 approval of the lists of candidates, along with the sequence of candidates.
The error was not on the ballot design sent to the printer. How the error came to be is a mystery so far. The printer has assured the Bureau they can deliver the new ballots in time for polls to open at 8:00am Monday.
United Democrats discovered the error when it received a copy of the specimen or “dummy” ballot. The dummy ballot is used by parties not only to doublecheck their slates, but to get their supporters and voters in general familiar with what they will see in the polling stations.
For transparency, the Bureau engaged the services of Boekhoudt Civil Law Notary Office as an independent third party to count the ballots and oversee the shredding process. The Notary verified that all 27,000 ballots were present in Parliament House before the shredding commenced using three large office shredders. Some two hours into the slow process, a large industrial shredder was contracted.
Two police officers blocked off Wilhelminasteeg when the shredder truck was in place. Bulks of the ballots were fetched downstairs from Parliament House by Bureau members, notary personnel and some Parliament staffers to the parked truck where the shredder made quick work of turning the ballots into confetti. The shredding process was overseen by the notary and the Bureau.
Printing of the destroyed batch of ballots cost taxpayers some US $5,000. The Bureau has not yet tallied the cost of the shredding and the printing of the new ballots.
A total of 22,559 persons who have Dutch nationality and are duly registered in St. Maarten have the right to cast a ballot in the race for the 15-seat Parliament. The additional 4,441 ballots printed in the destroyed batch and that will be printed in the new batch are “extras” to be used if a voter damages his/her ballot and requests a new one. Printing of “extra” ballots is common for all elections.