Thursday February 18 2016

What you need to know about voting and the polling station

Voters at a polling station in Kampala

Voters at a polling station in Kampala. Photo by Abubaker Lubowa  

By SOLOMON ARINAITWE

KAMPALA- The 15,277,196 registered voters are expected to file at 28,010 polling stations across the country, beginning 7am this morning to choose a president and Member of Parliament for their respective constituencies.

Voting ends at 4pm, and at stroke of the hour, the Election Constable stands behind the last person in the queue who will be the last one to cast the ballot.

There are eight presidential candidates in the race, half of whom are sponsored by political parties.

The Electoral Commission retired the old voters’ register and will use a version updated last year, which integrates data about individuals registered for the National Identity Card.

The EC, which is the legal entity to administer the elections, has issued Voter Location Slips (VLS) as additional identifiers for eligible voters and as a means to enable voters to easily locate their polling stations.

There will also be Biometric Voter Verification System machines to read the finger prints of a registered voter and match it with their particulars in the voters’ register to ensure the registered person is the one who has physically appeared to cast the ballot.

These elections are important because they empower you as a voter in exercise of your universal adult suffrage, to choose a president who will be the executive head of government and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces over the next five years.

While the person you tick on the ballot as your Member of Parliament will represent your concerns in the August House, legislate for the country, appropriate government finances and provide oversight until 2021, when the next scheduled elections will happen.

This is, therefore, a big responsibility not to be undertaken casually because the exercise will determine the fate of the current and future generations.

As such, the Daily Monitor provides in-depth, one-stop guide reference information on understanding your eligibility to cast the ballot in today’s elections, the voting procedure, what gadgets are allowed inside polling stations and the process of tallying and announcing the results.

The officials
EC officials at each polling station shall be headed by a presiding officer under who shall be Polling Assistants, election constables and orderly officials. They will wear identifying aprons.

What is allowed?
The Electoral Commission says voters can come with their phones, but they will be asked to switch them off during voting in what the electoral body says is to protect the confidentiality of the secret ballot. Voters will be free to use their phones during results’ tallying, counting and announcement.

Voting
Before voting starts, the law requires the presiding officer to open the polling kit, show it to the public and candidates’ agents present and turn it upside down to prove that it is empty.

There must be a minimum of five voters before voting starts. The Presiding officer must reveal the bundles of wrapped, sealed ballot papers to prove that they have not been tampered with.

Before voters are allowed to vote, the voter will give their name for identification; the polling assistant will crosscheck the right hand thumb to ensure that the voter has not already voted.

Polling officials are advised to conduct basic voter education like teaching the voter the authorised mark of choice, which is either the tick or thumb print.

If a person’s record is verified as eligible to vote, they will be issued a ballot paper or a spoilt one retrieved from them and they will proceed in privacy to tick or thumb-print in the space beside their choice candidate.

Election officials should ensure the stamp pad does not dry up and that the cuticle of the voter’s right hand thumb has been marked with indelible ink before leaving the polling station.

Voting will close at 4pm. However, all voters who will have queued by 4pm will be allowed to continue and cast the ballot. At 4pm, an Election Constable will stand behind the last person in the line until they vote.

Assistance for voting
An orderly officer shall identify and give priority to vulnerable persons to vote such as pregnant women, elderly persons, the sick, persons with disabilities (PWDs) and public officers like medical personnel.

The Biometric Voter Verification System (BVVS) device
A voter will place the thumb on the machine that automatically scans and reads it.

This is to help match a person’s particular to ensure the individual presenting him or herself is the same and one registered in the national voters’ register.

When there is a mismatch or the thumb print cannot be read either because of a machine malfunction or blunted prints, the election officials will make a final judgment call based on hard copies of the voters’ register which they will have at the polling station.

Counting and tallying votes
Before the counting, the presiding officer shall, in full view of all present, open the ballot box and empty the ballots and with the aid of polling assistants, proceed to count the votes separating the votes polled by each candidate.

Candidates’ Agents are not allowed to touch the ballot papers.

The counting procedure shall be by sorting the votes per candidate with all the candidates’ agents and voters present witnessing.

An election official, in this case the presiding officer, will pick one ballot paper at a time, raise it up and read out aloud the candidate for whom it has been cast and put it down as a vote for that candidate.

Agents are expected to record every vote for their candidate. All votes will be read to account or whether they are valid, invalid or spoilt. And unused ballot papers will be accounted for.

Signing of the Declaration (DR) Forms
After counting of votes, the Presiding Officer will record the votes of one candidate.

The Agents will sign the DR Form after all the voting information has been included by the Presiding Officer. Where any of the Agents refuses or fails to sign, the reasons for the refusal or failure to sign shall be recorded.
Where any agent is absent, the Presiding Officer shall record the Agent’s absence on the DR Form.

Security
There will be one unarmed police constable inside the poling station and two armed ones outside. Security of the elections is a mandate of the Uganda Police Force.
The police said they will deploy 150,000 officers for election security across the country, including army and prison personnel.

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