Political parties should not be allowed to retain scanned ballots, PD says

Partit Demokratiku has urged the Electoral Commission to prevent political parties from holding on to scanned ballot sheets for three months

The new electronic vote counting system to be used in the upcoming MEP elections will allow scanned copies of the ballot papers to be viewed by the political parties
The new electronic vote counting system to be used in the upcoming MEP elections will allow scanned copies of the ballot papers to be viewed by the political parties

Partit Demokratiku (PD) has urged for the secret ballot to be protected and that the two major political parties in Parliament should not be given access to the scans of cast ballot sheets for up to three months after an election.

"Through these scanned ballots, it becomes possible for voters to highlight specific voting patterns on their ballot, and thereby make themselves identifiable to the political parties who are looking at the scanned ballots. It is imperative that there is transparency and a clear plan of action to prevent abuse, for even after the three months of access are over, how are we to ensure that the data is removed from the hands of the political parties, and not secretly retained?" the PD said.

PD expressed concern on increased clientelism related to the practice of retaining ballot scans. The party said that voters who were willing to offer their vote for a favour may be identified from their voting patterns on the ballot and make themselves recognisable without having to illegally take a photo of the sheet in the voting booth.

"We are opening a very dangerous can of worms, especially if this process becomes widespread enough that other voters may be identified by association," PD MEP candidate Martin Cauchi Inglott said.

MEP candidate Anthony Buttigieg argued that with access to ballot sheets, political parties would be able to predict which candidate would be elected and can "strategically plan ahead in a way which defeats the spirit of democracy."

PD deputy leader Timothy Alden said that for this reason, the step towards electronic vote counting could be a step in the wrong direction. "PD leader Godfrey Farrugia and PD MP Marlene Farrugia voted in favour of electronic counting because the Party believes in modernising our voting system, but the understanding is that it must not come with any loopholes, risks or potential for abuse," he said.

The PD urged for the electoral commission to revisit these flaws just weeks away from the MEP elections in May.

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