The Malta Independent 7 June 2023, Wednesday
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PN’s trust in electronic counting ‘seriously decreased’ after changes without Commission’s consent

Albert Galea Monday, 3 December 2018, 12:27 Last update: about 6 years ago

The Partit Nazzjonalista’s trust level in the new electronic vote counting system has “seriously decreased” after changes were made to the system by the company responsible for it without informing the Electoral Commission or the political party delegates.

Speaking to this newsroom after a report published in The Malta Independent, PN Secretary Clyde Puli said that the PN had voted in favour of this system in parliament as it removes tension by reducing long waiting times; however after news of the non-consensual changes emerged following the system’s second mock test on Saturday, Puli said that their trust level in the system has “seriously decreased” and that they were “very concerned”.

The PN demanded reassurances about what safeguards will be in place to ensure that no one can just change the system at will before they can re-affirm their status in favour of this system.

The situation, Puli said, “is dangerous for democracy”.

During the first mock test of the new system in November, a number of concerns had been flagged, especially on the number of ballot sheets that the system failed to recognise and were subsequently passed on to a human adjudicator. This amounted to approximately 40 per cent of the votes.

In the second mock test, held on Saturday at the Naxxar counting hall, the number of ballot sheets not recognised by the system was substantially less, nearly half the original amount. Sources speaking to this newsroom claimed that such a steep decline in the number of votes not being recognised was due to the changes made by the contractor.

If the scanners, which are being kept in the new strong room, are capable of being modified and tampered with without the knowledge of the Electoral Commission there is a serious problem, sources told this newspaper after the mock test.

Furthermore, the first mock test cannot be compared to yesterday’s second test as the system did not scan like with like.

The new electronic vote counting system will be used in the upcoming MEP and local council elections in May, and through it the wait for the full election results will be shaved to around 12 hours.

Under the new system, ballot boxes will still be put into the strong room on arrival as usual, however, the votes will be scanned electronically and the voting preferences will be detected by the scanner. The ballot paper will then be displayed on a big screen at each district’s station.

If the system does not recognise a ballot sheet, it is passed on to human adjudicators who – with the party delegates present – will recognise it themselves. The scanning system does not automatically reject any votes. 

Party delegates and electoral commissioners will also have an app where they can view any ballot sheet in accordance with a unique number that is printed on its back after the sheets are scanned. Each district – which will have two scanners – will also have an Idox company specialist present in case any technical hitch or problem arises.

The ‘eCount’ system is being operated by leading providers of specialist election solutions Idox, and election security technology company Scytl. Idox has 23 years’ experience in election fields and recently conducted the elections for 32 Scottish local authorities. Scytl specialises in the security aspects of such electronic election management solutions.

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