Sunday, December 5, 2021

What Should Polling Agents Know In Order To Be Qualified?


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Every candidate is entitled to appoint two polling agents to monitor polling at the polling station assigned to them. These polling agents should have a copy of the form appointing them as polling agents which they should show to the presiding officer upon arrival at the polling station.

In the first place, the polling agent should make sure he arrives at the polling station well before the commencement of polling, that is, well before 8am, to give himself or herself adequate time to inspect the polling station and to witness the preliminaries by the presiding officer.

It is the duty of the IEC to ensure that “every polling station is provided, before the commencement of the taking of the poll, with proper doors, barriers, tables, chairs and other conveniences.” The polling booth must be such that no one can see a voter votes while there but that any person of normal hearing can hear the recording of votes. “Each ballot box shall be prominently marked with the name and shall bear the representative symbol, colour and a photograph of one of the candidates,” and when the ballot token is placed in the hole it cannot be withdrawn from the ballot box. The sounds emitted by the ballot boxes when votes are emitted should all be the same, otherwise anybody nearby can tell how a person voted.

Soon before the commencement of polling the presiding officer is duty bound to display each of the empty ballot boxes for all those who are present at the polling station to see and ensure that only one sound results from the impact of a ballot token on the internal baffle plate or device in a ballot box. The presiding officer shall now seal the ballot boxes with numbers (usually at three points) so that the ballot boxes cannot be opened without breaking the seal and polling agents are advised to record these numbers. When this has been done in the open to all the ballot boxes, they will then be taken to the polling booth accompanied by the polling agents. Once the ballot boxes have been arranged everybody must leave the booth together. This gives assurance to all the polling agents that all the ballot boxes were empty at the commencement of polls. As from henceforth no single person whatsoever is allowed to enter the polling booth apart from the voter who wishes to record his or her voter and such voter should enter the booth alone. The exception is the visually impaired or person who cannot walk on his her own. For the sake of transparency, if indeed a situation arises that necessitates the presiding officer to enter the booth the practice is she or he should be accompanied by all the polling agents.

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Before the commencement of polls the ballot tokens supplied to the presiding officer should be counted in the presence of the polling agents.

Polls shall commence at 8am and close at 5pm. At least one polling agent of every candidate should be so seated that he or she can read the voter’s card of the person who has presented himself/herself to the presiding officer to cast his/her vote and can hear what is being said. The polling agent should ensure that (a) the entries in the voter’s card are the same as those in the register of voters (b) the photograph on the voter’s card bears resemblance of him/her (c) the voter’s thumb or other finger is marked with an indelible ink as an indication that the voter has voted.

The voter may now proceed to cast his/her vote and leave the polling station immediately after voting.

The polling agent should listen attentively while the voter is casting his/her vote to ensure that the sound is audible and is emitted only once. This assures that the voter has cast his/her vote once.

The polling agent should endeavour to mark against the name of every voter in the register who casts his or her vote. This will be used to tally the total number of votes cast.

Unless all the voters on the register of voters have voted polling will close at 5pm, though anybody who has already presented himself/herself at the polling station by 5pm will be allowed to vote.

Upon the close of polls, the presiding officer will take out the ballot boxes in the presence of the polling agents who may serve as the counting agents of the candidates.

The total number of ballot tokens remaining after the close of polls will be counted.

The agents of the candidates will examine the serial numbers on the seals of each ballot box to ensure that they are the same as the numbers recorded before they were placed in the polling booth. The seals of a ballot box will be broken and the ballot tokens emptied and counted in the presence of the agents of all candidates. The valid and invalid votes will be counted for each candidate. This will be done to all the ballot boxes, one by one.

The total valid votes, invalid votes and unused ballot tokens must add up to the total number of tokens supplied to the presiding officer. Each agent has the right to request for a recount if he or she is not sure.

When counting is completed, the presiding officer will prepare a report which will include the following: total  number  of  votes  cast, number of valid votes, number of invalid votes; number of unused ballot tokens, votes obtained  by each candidate and protests,  if any, by agents of candidates regarding  the validity of votes or any other matter. Every agent will be given the report to sign.

The results for the particular polling station will be transmitted to the appropriate collation centre. It is the responsibility of every agent of a candidate to communicate the results to the candidate’s collation agent.

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