Wed | Sep 30, 2020

Consider extended voting to break deadlock

Published:Saturday | September 12, 2020 | 12:06 AM


In the event of an election deadlock in a constituency (even after a magisterial recount), how should the returning officer cast the decisive vote in accordance with the Representation of the People Act?

Should the decisive vote be cast in favour of the incumbent or in accordance with the returning officer’s political allegiance or bias, or by using a game of chance and drawing straws, tossing a coin, or, as was recently done, by a ‘blind draw’ from a box with the name of the candidates?

If a returning officer casts the decisive vote, then this could possibly result in reprisals for them, given all that is at stake, but this would definitely breach two fundamental principles: the secret ballot and the one-vote-per-elector principle.

I don’t think one person should be given the authority to decide the destiny of a constituency in any fair contest.

In the case of a deadlock, if we wish to abide by the will of the majority and not give an elector an additional vote, that is the returning officer (who may not reside or be registered to vote in that constituency), then I would suggest an amendment to the Representation of the People Act to ensure an additional day of voting within a specified period after the magisterial recount.

Election exercises on the specified date could then be carried out for the usual duration or for a shortened duration of four hours. Only those registered electors who had decided not to or who did not get the chance to vote would be eligible to participate to break the deadlock.