By Lamin Fatty
The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), has engaged regional leaders and regional representatives of political parties in the Upper River Region in a two day consultative meeting on electoral reform from the 21st to the 22nd of June 2019.
The participants included district chiefs, National Assembly members, Ward Councillors drawn from all areas of the region. The Governor was also present.
The URR consultation is part of the IEC nationwide consultation of regional representatives in all the regions of the country.
The thematic areas of the Regional consultation were
- a) demarcation of electoral boundaries;
- b) voter registration, transfers, replacements and deletions;
- c) election nominations, qualifications and disqualifications;
- d) election campaign, finance and media;
- e) polling/voting and counting of votes, and
- f) results declaration, election petitions and political party registration.
An issue which was discussed concerns the use of ballot papers instead of marbles for voting. This was supported by all political parties. During his presentation on how to use the new ballot paper in an election, the Chairperson of the IEC Alieu Momarr Njai, said it is becoming hard to use ballot drums and tokens in this new dispensation. He argued that whereas before there were fewer candidates who contested in elections, under the new found democracy, the political field is more conducive bringing in more political parties, noting that already, there are ten registered parties before the 2021 presidential elections.
“Among the 52 countries in Africa, only The Gambia uses the ballot token system of voting, and it is the most expensive election process logistically. For example, with ten candidates contesting in a presidential election, there will be 1,040 polling stations in the country which means every polling station will have 10 ballot drums, and each ballot drum cost D900 during last elections. Compared to the ballot paper ballot process, no matter how many candidates are contesting, each station will get only one ballot box,” Chairperson Njai said.
He further indicated that with this new system, a ballot paper will contain the pictures, colors, and symbols of all the candidates and a voter is required to tick or thumb print on the candidate of his/her choice, and drop it in the ballot box; that with this new system of voting, presidential, national assembly and local government elections can be conducted in one day.