This opinion letter is a proposal that the procedures used in the counting of ballots during the national elections should be reformed. The current situation is that the counting of ballots is slow and lacking in response, particularly in constituencies where the polling stations are scattered over large areas. This circumstance casts a shadow over the IEC’s performance and hence its credibility.
Be as it may, the Electoral Act is used to define, inter alia, the value chains of the national elections, the grammatical context of the words therein must be clear and logical. Of particular focus is a sentence in Section 70 (4) that reads”the returning officer shall mix together all the ballot papers found in the ballot boxes for that constituency”. The wording instructs the returning officer to instinctively delay any counting activities until the very final ballot box is delivered. If the phrase in italics is replaced with “the ballot papers found in the ballot boxes of each and every ward “ that wording induces the returning officer to commence the counting as soon as a contingent of any ward’s ballot boxes is collected.
Section 71 (1) permits the returning officer to open each ballot paper, despite that by so doing the voters selection is immediately revealed , the Act does not empower the returning officer to take the numbers of the ballots there and then. Other countries announce cumulative estimates by radio and TV during such interim stages, that is, before the final count is confirmed.
I hope that some of the readers share my sentiment and therefore it serves as a basis for drafting a bill of parliament.
BMD Chairperson- Mahalapye