The Elections Commission of Maldives notes with concern the false allegations made against the Commission and its President in the media, alleging that the Commission is creating “opportunities for vote rigging and massive voter fraud” in the upcoming Presidential Elections due to be held on 23rd September 2018. The Commission strongly refutes the allegations and calls upon all parties to refrain from disseminating such false information and unsubstantiated allegations that could create concern within the general public, and create concern amongst international partners and stakeholders, on the integrity of the Commission.
As stated in a number of public statements, the Commission reiterates that it will follow all standard vote counting procedures used in previous elections to ensure a transparent process and to combat fraudulent practices. Thus, the Commission would like to clarify the legal procedures on vote counting as set out in the Elections General Act.
Once the time to cast votes as pre-announced by the Commission is up, the ballot box will be sealed as per Section 53 of the aforementioned Act. After sealing the ballot boxes at the end of voting, all materials used for voting, including the unused ballots and counterfoils will be packed and sealed in the security envelope especially designated for that purpose, in the presence of the candidates, official elections agents of the candidates, representatives of the candidates, elections observers and elections monitors if present.
As per Section 55 of the Elections General Act, the Commission notes that the vote counting process will be carried out by election officials who are assigned to this task by the official in charge of the voting station. This procedure will be carried out in the presence of the candidates, official elections agents of the candidates, representatives of the candidates, elections observers and elections monitors approved by the Commission, if present. In the event that representatives of candidates, official elections agents of the candidates, observers, or election monitors approved by the Commission are not present at the time of vote counting, this process will be carried out in the presence of 3 (three) electors who are eligible to vote in that particular voting station.
In order to count the votes, the ballot box will be opened and emptied out onto the table in the presence of the aforementioned individuals. The officials will then sort the ballot papers into categories of invalid votes and the respective candidates’ names. Each ballot paper will then be shown to those present in the order of invalid ballots, votes for candidate number 1 and votes for candidate number 2. After showing the ballot papers, the votes will be counted out loud by two officials and bundled together in ballot papers of 50. The label on each bundle will then be filled out by the elections official.
If a ballot paper is deemed invalid, the reasons will be explained. Those present have the right to ask questions throughout the process, and any queries raised will be addressed appropriately and noted in the Report of the Proceedings. For example, if a ballot paper for one candidate is mistakenly placed in the pile for another candidate and is spotted during the stage when individual ballot papers are shown to those present, and they ask to rectify the error, it will be rectified immediately. Similarly, in the event that there is a dispute between those present and the official in charge on whether a ballot paper is invalid or not and the official in charge makes a decision regarding the validity of the ballot paper, and the complainant is dissatisfied with said decision, then those present at the time also have the right to officially submit the complaint, in writing, to any of the Elections Complaints Bureau. If they are dissatisfied with the Commission’s decision regarding the complaint, the complainant has the right to appeal the case to the High Court as per the Elections General Act.
During the counting process, an official will fill out the results sheet paper with a pen. The official in charge of the voting station and at least two elections officials who participated in vote counting are legally required to sign this result sheet before officially announcing the results of the ballot box, as per Section 55 (b) of the aforementioned Act. After the aforementioned result sheet is signed by the two elections officials, the results of the vote will be announced and publicly displayed in the voting station as per Section 57 (a) of the aforementioned Act. Once the results are announced, only will the results be communicated to Elections Commission officially and this will be done via electronic tablets provided at the polling stations.
The Commission notes that this is the procedure which has been used in the Local Council Elections held in 2017, the Parliamentary Elections in 2014 and the Presidential Elections held in 2013. The Elections Commission reiterates that it will follow all required legal procedures to guarantee that all procedures on voting and vote counting are followed by the Commission in full presence and view of the candidates, official elections agents of the candidates, representatives of the candidates, elections observers and elections monitors if present. Thus, the Commission urges all parties to refrain from spreading misinformation regarding the vote counting processes which may create questions about the credibility of the election amongst the public and our international partners and calls on all parties to support the Commission in its commitment to hold impartial, free, fair, and transparent elections.
19th September 2018