Saturday, October 11, 2008

Can we mend the electoral list?

As I was waiting for the girl behind the counter to issue my ballot paper, I overheard the old man behind me in the queue asking whether his name was on the list. From the ensuing conversation I gathered he had gone to another polling station in Henveiru and was told his name was not there. It wasn't there in our polling station either. So the old man, despite being born and brought up in Male and registered in the same Henveiru house all his life and despite having a valid ID card had to go home without voting.

A friend of mine, a 60-year old lady living in Henveiru was luckier. On Election Day morning, she went to the Maafannu polling station where she was guided to go. Her name wasn't there however and she was directed to go to a neighboring station. Fortunately she could vote there.

Another friend, a pre-school teacher, said she had no such problem at all. In fact her name was listed in two different polling stations, one in Galolhu where her father's house is located and one in Machchangolhi where her mother's house is located. Her father's name was also on the list even though he died 13 years ago. She had pointed this out to election officials even last year during the August referendum. But clearly no action has been taken.

There are many anecdotes like this across the Maldives. So obviously there are major problems with the electoral list. Is there a solution to this?

In some countries Election Commissions do not rely solely on national ID cards. Rather they require voters to come and register after supplying proof of citizenship and identity. Even in the Maldives a similar procedure was followed for registering people who wanted to vote outside their home islands. Can we use such a registering process for all citizens to improve the electoral roll?


yasiph said...

excellent idea. Great post.

Anonymous said...

Dear Waheed,

The electoral list has to be accurate. The taxpayers have spent millions to the salaries of the officials in the Office of the Election Commissioner. It had been the responsibility of the Election Commisioner to have accurate compilation of the list....We are just talking of 200 thousands people...... The Office of the election Commisioner had been only get busy every five year in the past....why the Election Commissioner has failed to maintain the accurae list....Who has appointed the Commissioner....

The Civil Service Commission should review the performance of the civil servants in the election Commission and provide more staff. Civil servants at the election Commission should be forced to resign...We need civil servants with expertise and their criminal records also need to be reviewed. Some of officials at the Election Commission have served sentance for criminal offences.

Zed said...

Voter registration, how important is it really?

I strongly believe, like most, that the Elections Commission of the Maldives has failed in its responsibility to setup a proper electoral register. Despite the 'thumbs up' given by international observers, I personally believe otherwise. The process should have started much earlier than it did, giving the Commission time to smooth out kinks in the system.

Most people complained about having to register to vote. It could be because the importance of this wasn't impressed enough upon the public by the responsible parties.

I agree it was more than a bit of a hassle. But having a registered voter database is perhaps more important than an election itself, especially in terms of catch phrases such as 'free and fair'. Two very critical reasons may be identified for registration. One, it is an opportunity to verify the eligibility of voters and two, it controls the legitimacy of the balloting process.

The latter reason maybe harder for some to understand. It simply means ensuring that each registered voter gets to vote once and only once. The key factors to understand here are, 'registered voter' and 'vote once'. The electoral system must be challenged if cases of fraud or vote rigging surfaces. Thus, having a thorough and comprehensive electoral register is critical not just to evade potential lawsuits or civil uprisings following an election, but to ensure that the people are given the opportunity to participate in free and fair elections.

The right to vote is the most fundamental form of participation and contribution by the masses in the democratic process. No other opportunity involves the public at large.

Anonymous said...

Dear Waheed,
The electoral list was certainly a disaster ! The commission failed to include so many of the eligible voters on the final, which i believe is just total negligence on behalf of the commission. it is one thing for the list to have names of those who had passed away, however i can't think of any valid reason why anybody with a valid ID should not be on that list. before the final day, the election commission could have atleast tried to make sure that each ID card holder is allocated to one ballot box.
i've met with many people whose names didn't appear at all in the election register. so i am wondering where did this go so wrong. Where did this list originate ? Did DNR failed to issue a list of ID card holders ?
or was this just a deliberate act to rig the votes as the oppositions accuse !