Ballot papers in elections

Farhad Khan

Pakistan still uses the manual ballot papers in elections; on the other hand India took the lead in introduction of technology into its electoral process. The introduction of technology reduces the chances of errors and makes the process more secure, easy and less-time consuming. The ballot-papers pose many challenges to free and fair elections. One serious problem is votes’ rejection. In the 2013 general election over 1.5 million votes were rejected which is the highest number in our electoral history. The number of rejected votes raises concerns over the fairness of the elections and the efficiency of the ECP. In several constituencies the number of rejected votes exceeded the victory margin. Such trends increasingly undermine the expected impartial role which the ECP is constitutionally bound to play. In 2013 general election, out of 410 petitions 43 petitions sought re-examination of excluded ballots. Although the Commission holds the voters and their illiteracy responsible for the rejection of votes, yet it forgets that voters’ education is one of the basic and important responsibilities of the Commission. It also shows the failure on the part of the Commission to properly train its staff for the polling day. In 2013 general election, EC staff was not properly trained so as to guide the voters. Other challenges posed by the ballot-papers to the ‘holding of free and fair elections’ are the printing of ballot papers and the handling of unused ballot papers. There are two main problems regarding the printing of ballot papers: one is printing technology and second is printing of extra ballot papers. Printing Corporation of Pakistan used 66-year old machines to print the ballot papers for 2013 general election.

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