Parties knew of missing votes before Labour's 'discovery' and 'return'

The Nationalist Party says that both the Labour Party and itself were notified by the Electoral Commission on the missing documents, after MaltaPost informed the latter of the votes' misplacement last week.

Reacting to the incident which saw a MaltaPost employee lose some 15 voting documents in Paola, PN secretary-general Paul Borg Olivier insisted that PN and PL representatives were immediately notified by the Electoral Commission on the missing documents.

"Both parties, represented in parliament following the electoral process with the Electoral Commission, were notified immediately with the missing documents by the Commission as soon as this fact was reported to it by Maltapost," Borg Olivier said in comments to MaltaToday.

However, the public only came to know about the lost documents when Labour MP Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi personally handed over the documents to the Electoral Commission this week.

MaltaPost said it had reported the lost documents in Paola to the Commission last week.

Borg Olivier explained that  the law provides for a reconciliation process of all delivered documents to be made and no voting document can go unaccounted for.

Borg Olivier added that the "PN expects that all voters are guaranteed the consignment of their vote. It also expects that this is done in the most transparent and most effective manner at all times by those delivering or consigning the voting document to the voter."

"The law provides for the possibility of human error. Once a voting document is reported to be lost or damaged, a legal mechanism kicks off - according to the Electoral Laws - to have the missing document reprinted and marked as such," he said. "All steps are taken to have the document reprinted under the supervision of the Parties, ensuring that only the reprinted document is used in the electoral process. "

The Labour Party and the yes for divorce lobby took a much different stand in their reaction. Both groups said the responsibility in distributing voting documents requires assistance by the Police.

“This case shows the need for police officers to be involved in the process of distributing voting documents,” the PL said in comments to MaltaToday. “Sensitive electoral processes should be overseen by the State.”

The PL added that this also includes the process of the renewal of ID cards. Like the introduction of the biometrics passport systems, all ID cards will eventually make use of the same system. “The renewal should however not be left solely in the hands of private contractors. Government should supervise the change-over.”

Former Nationalist Minister and member of the Yes movement Michael Falzon said the attempt to replace police officers with MaltaPost employees has shown postal workers are not up to the job.

“Obviously, MaltaPost employees do not take the job with the same responsibility and commitment police officers do,” Falzon said. “The attempt to remove police of their responsibility of distributing votes has been disappointing.”

Whilst Labour Party president Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi – who personally handed over the 15 documents to the Electoral Commission – claimed the documents had been “hidden or discarded”, MaltaPost issued a statement claiming it had reported the lost documents to the Electoral Commission and the Police.

However, neither the Electoral Commission nor the Police have confirmed nor rebutted the report.

Moreover, the Electoral Commission had neither issued a statement informing the general public of the lost votes when MaltaPost had filed its report.

The Zwieg Bla Divorzju Movement, on the other hand is hopeful that the 'missing documents case' is solved as soon as possible.

"The Zwieg Bla Divorzju Movement is confident that the Electoral Commision will carry out its duties according to law. The Movement hopes that similar cases such as those witnessed in Paola and Dingli be solved in the shortest time possible," the Movement said.

Yesterday, PBS reported that some 50 voting documents went missing in Dingli.

"[We] also appeal for people to fully co-operate with the Electoral Commission in its work, in the run up to the referendum of the 28th May, 2011," the Movement added.

The decision to have MaltaPost personnel distributing voting documents followed an announcement by the Police Force that it could not spare manpower for the distribution of votes. The Police Force had argued that mounting pressures from the ongoing crisis in Libya made it difficult to spare police offers for the distributing job.

In recent days, MaltaPost has been criticised for the way it handled the distribution of the voting documents.

Last Sunday, weekly newspaper Torċa reported that at the beginning, 95 postal workers had been assigned for the distribution, as opposed to the usual 250 police officers. It also reported that whilst usually 19 days are allocated for the distribution, the postal workers were given only 7 days.

According to It-Torċa, the remaining 12 days were spent preparing the voting documents. The newspaper also reported that whilst police officers used to distribute the documents between 8am and 8pm, with a one hour break, the postal workers worked between 2pm and 8pm and on Sunday from 8am till 2pm.

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