Current Affairs
Electronic vote counting to replace manual counting process – and other changes?

The counting of votes for next year’s EuroParliamentary Election to select six EU representative members as well as the Local Council Elections in Malta and Gozo will experience a complete change in the counting of votes cast with a transition from manual counting to electronic counting. The Electoral Commission has made a number of suggestions and proposals for these changes in the electoral process but not all will necessarily be in place for next year’s elections.

The Electoral Commission is proposing discussions as to whether the Identity Card may also be used as the Voting Document. One of the reasons is that the production and distribution of Voting Documents by Police takes time, uses resources and costs money. The Commission is proposing that if this suggestion is accepted the voter will receive a notice informing of the electoral voting place and the Assistant Commissioners at the voting site will have an identical document to prove the person has voted. The Labour Party agrees with this suggestion.

Louis Gatt, who is Vice President and heads the Electoral Commission on behalf of the PL said the Voting Document and the Electoral Register carry the same details as the Identity Card and if any change in this is made, it will automatically be input in the Voting Document and the Register. This, he said, is why the ID card should be used for voting.

The Nationalist Party agrees in principle but said the Electoral Commission no longer has control of ID cards, as used to happen in the past.

PN General Secretary Clyde Puli said the PN has concerns regarding Identity Malta as well as the whole security issue in the electoral process. For these reasons the PN maintains that this should not be the entity that issues voting documents and the party is studying the whole of the security process. He said the PN has no confidence in Identity Malta as it stands today.

Regarding the Days of Reflection and Silence on the eve of an election became Law in 1991 at a time when there were no sms’s or Facebook or Twitter or other social media. The Commission has noted it has become difficult to control that no messages or adverts are passed through social media and therefore it believes the Law has to be amended to cover these developments.

Louis Gatt said the PL said that as far as social media are concerned, as well as communication between people, do not fall under this legislation which is not of the same standing as a printed newspaper or a newspaper online. Therefore, the belief is that social media such as Facebook should remain liberated from this legislation.

Puli asked if a candidate posts “Vote George Borg” on Facebook and it is still there, should this be removed? He said this would not be realistic. Silence should be maintained but would or should this stop people talking in the street? He said these matters have to be updated while on the other hand safeguards should also be made.

Taking the matter further Puli said if there was no period of silence what would preclude a journal from publishing a false story at such a sensitive moment and what would be the remedy for this?

Representatives of both parties agreed with the Commission’s proposal that in cases of early voting, such as in Gozo, this should need to take place in the Counting Hall only. Both parties also agreed that as happens in cases of elderly people in hospital or in homes for the elderly where they are allowed to early vote at the place where they are, those prisoners entitled to vote should also be enabled in prison and not be taken under escort to their local voting hall.

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