The Malta Independent 23 July 2019, Tuesday

Electronic counting: errors in published turnout figures due to ‘fault in system’

Jeremy Micallef Thursday, 23 May 2019, 12:21 Last update: about 3 months ago

The erroneous early voting turnout figures published by the Department of Information last weekend were due to a “fault in the system”, Electoral Commissioner Joseph Church said.

The voting figures published by the DOI had certain inconsistencies, which resulted in a correction having to be published showing a discrepancy of thousands of votes against the initial figures released, leading many to question if there were glitches in the new electronic counting system being used for the first time this year.

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Speaking with this newspaper yesterday, Church noted that he was under no pressure to release anything and could very well have refrained from doing so, explaining that they usually publish the figures on Saturday.

“This time there were questions from the media as to whether we would publish figures, so I told someone from IT to release figures at 2pm and 10pm, as we usually do.”

While those sent out at 2pm were “perfect”, the figures published at 10pm were doubled by the system itself – specifically, it doubled the 7,000 vote count to 14,000.

“I couldn’t retract as it was 1am - it was not my intention to publish something like this because I would normally try to refrain from doing so.”

The corrections and revised figures were, in fact, published the next day.

As to whether there was a lack of resources for the upcoming double election, the first time that the entire country will go to the local council polls, plus the MEP election polls, Church maintained that “the people are who they are.

“We've worked with them before and they are seasoned people, so we don't have any deficiencies from that aspect.”

He did concede that there was an element of increased pressure due to the fact that the two elections were taking place at once, which he said “was not a joke”.

“The people are competent, I have no difficulties with them - some of whom are permanent staff of mine, and others who are engaged for situations like these, who are not a little.”

“I can tell you that we don't have a lack of resources, and I have confidence. This is doable.”

 

Party reactions

Answering questions from this newsroom, the Nationalist Party said that it was and is monitoring the electoral process in its entirety so much so that it was their delegates who brought to the attention of the Electoral Commission that the numbers published were not correct.

“The Nationalist Party is aware that notwithstanding the decision taken by Government to hold two national elections together the Electoral Commission resources were still limited and lack the necessary human resources among others.”

They noted that the mistake was unintentional, although it did raise concerns as to how stretched the Commission’s resources are, and whether the Commission can cope with the two elections being held together.

“In this regard the Nationalist Party will continue to monitor the process rigorously and will make sure that any such mistakes will be brought to the Commission's attention.”

 

Questions sent to the Labour Party were not answered by the time of print

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