Legal Scoop: Voting 101: Election day procedures made simple
Given the season that we are now in, and knowing that when next this column appears, the elections will be behind us, today’s column will focus on the provisions of the Representation of the People’s Act (the Act) in so far as it pertains to the procedure that will be followed on election day.
Of course, given space constraints, I will have to cut a lot and paste only a little, so, do walk with me between the raindrops this week, readers.
Section 33 of the Act provides that polls must be taken in each polling station by secret ballot between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.
According to Section 33 (Subsection 3) of the Act, the ballot paper, among other requirements, is to have a counterfoil and a stub and the same number is to be printed on the top of the stub and the counterfoil.
Subsection 5 states that in the event of loss or destruction of ballot papers confirming to the requirements … substitute ballots may be used.
Section 34 provides that any person whose name appears on the official list of shall be permitted to vote at the polling station on the official list of electors on which his name appears.
This means that it is not sufficient that an elector’s name appear on an official list of electors, for him to vote, no, an elector must vote at the particular polling station on which his name appears on its official list of electors.
Where there is discrepancy between the details appearing for the elector on the official list and the details provided to the presiding officer, Section 34, Subsection 2, provides that in such situations, once the officer is satisfied that there is a name, address and occupation on the official list which so closely matches those of the prospective voter as to suggest that the entry was intended to refer the prospective voter, such person shall, upon taking a prescribed oath, be entitled to receive a ballot.
No person shall be entitled to receive a ballot or to vote unless his identity has been established to the satisfaction of the presiding officer.
Of note, Section 33, Subsection 4 provides that no elector shall vote more than once in the same election in the same constituency nor in more than one constituency on the same day. Would be cheats, beware.
There is also provision under the Act (section 34, subsection 3(A) to 3(B)) for finger prints to be taken before any ballot paper is issued to any elector, and for no ballot to be issued to any prospective elector who fails to comply with the request for him to offer his finger for printing.
It is not clear however, whether this section of the Act will be implemented for this election. One could argue, however, that because the requirement for fingerprinting -before voting -now appears in the Act, then it should be implemented.
The process by which ballots are to be marked, is set out at section 35 of the Act. I will summarise the section briefly:
· The presiding officer is to provide the voter with a ballot paper, fold it in the appropriate manner, show him how to mark the ballot and direct him to return same -after he has marked it - folded in the manner demonstrated.
· The voter shall then enter the voting booth and mark the ballot and fold and return same to the presiding officer.
· The presiding officer on receiving the ballot is to inspect same in full view of all, ensure the number and initials are the same as on the ballot returned, as on the ballot given to the voter before he entered the voting booth. Once satisfied, the officer shall remove the counterfoil and deposit the ballot in the ballot box.
· If a voter inadvertently handles his ballot in a manner that renders it unable to be conveniently used, he can return same to the presiding officer who shall deface it thereby rendering it a spoilt ballot and issue a new ballot to the voter.
Closing of the polls
Where at the hour of closing of the polls, there are persons still waiting to vote inside the polling station or in the immediate precincts thereof, the station shall be kept open to facilitate such persons voting but only if those persons were actually in the polling station or were identified by the presiding officer as having been in the immediate precincts of the polling station at the time for closing of the polls.
Showing others how one has voted
Under the Act, this is a big no, no as Subsections 7-9 of Section 35, provide that where a voter intentionally displays his ballot in order to allow someone to see how he has voted or not voted, his ballot will be seized, marked spoilt by the presiding officer and a new ballot issued to the voter for him to revote.
Where however, the voter again intentionally displays the ballot in the manner mentioned before, the process will be repeated by the presiding officer, but on the second occasion, no new ballot will be issued to the voter.
Where the voter actually used a digital camera, cellular phone, or other recording device himself to capture how he marked his ballot, with a view to making another know how he voted, his ballot will be seized by the presiding officer, spoilt and no new ballot issued.
Alas the space constraints have overtaken us, nonetheless, and I must end here. There is much more to read, however, and readers would be well advised to find the time to look over the Act before going to the polls on Thursday.
Happy Voting…may the best team win!
- Shena Stubbs is an attorney-at-law and legal commentator. Send feedback to: