The Malta Independent 27 June 2019, Thursday

Writing clear numbers in centre of boxes on ballot sheet helps speed up scanning process

Friday, 24 May 2019, 09:04 Last update: about 2 months ago

The European Parliament and local council elections to be held on Saturday will be the first in which an electronic process will be used to count the votes.

The idea is to speed up the procedure – too often, in previous elections, the counting of votes ended up taking more than 48 hours between the time when the sorting of votes started and its conclusion.

This time, the Electoral Commission expects to be in a position to give the official result by Sunday at 11pm. The counting process may even be concluded before, but the results cannot be published officially until 11pm because of a deadline imposed by the European Union, given that polling stations in EU countries where voting will take place on Sunday closes at that time.

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But to be able to stick to its plan the Commission needs help from the voters themselves.

As Louis Fsadni, a veteran of elections in Malta, explained to the media on Wednesday, the scanning process will be made much simpler if voters write the numbers clearly at the centre of the boxes provided on the ballot sheet.

If this is done, the scanners will be able to detect the preferences faster, and any disputes which would then involve party agents would be avoided.

The Electoral Commission has allotted four hours during which the so-called “dubious” votes will be analysed and discussed before a final decision is taken.

But if every voter had to adhere to the instructions given – clear numbers at the centre of the box – less time will be wasted.

The commission will also be helped if voters fold up the ballot sheet just twice before placing it in the ballot box.

Fsadni explained that voters should first fold the ballot sheet in half, and then repeat the process. Again, this would make it simpler for the ballot sheets to be reopened, and this would result in just three creases in the ballot sheet, the longest one in Malta’s election history.

The ballot sheet will list the names of 41 candidates, the largest ever number to contest a European Parliament election, one in which Malta and Gozo will be one big electoral district.

The number surpasses the previous record of 34 candidates in 2009, while there were 32 candidates in the 2014 election and 27 in the first EP election ever held, in 2004.

The instructions above are, of course, also valid for the local council elections, the votes of which will be counted on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

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