Electoral Commission proposes legal changes for drive-through voting in COVID election

Proposal requires legislative changes since existing rules only allow mixed polling boxes in hospitals and old people’s homes

File photo
File photo

The Electoral Commission is proposing the creation of drive-through mixed polling stations where COVID-19 positive patients and people in quarantine will be able to vote.

The proposal requires legislative changes since existing rules only allow mixed polling boxes in hospitals and old people’s homes.

Sources familiar with the process said agreement has been reached between the major political parties on the process to be adopted to ensure the safety of electoral workers while ensuring people’s right to vote is guaranteed.

Chief Electoral Commissioner Joseph Camilleri would not confirm the proposal but told MaltaToday the commission has presented the government with a set of amendments to the General Elections Act.

“If accepted, the amendments would, amongst others regulate the process whereby persons suffering from COVID-19 and those in quarantine as a result of the pandemic, would be able to cast their vote in a safe and secure manner,” Camilleri said.

He added there are no plans in the pipeline to introduce postal voting, a prospect floated by independent candidate Arnold Cassola. Last week, Cassola wrote to European Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders to ensure the voting rights of Maltese people in quarantine are protected.

A general election is due this year with the latest possible date being September.

Camilleri said discussions with stakeholders, including the Public Health Superintendent, have been going on since last year. Each stage of the electoral process was evaluated so that preparations could get underway for the holding of an election during the pandemic.

“The work done by the Electoral Commission in this regard is intended to ensure that the right of the voter to express himself in secret through his vote is given effect to. The COVID-19 pandemic has created a challenging situation, but every effort is being done so that the over-riding principle that the right of a voter to vote is sacred, is fully respected,” Camilleri said.

The Electoral Commission is monitoring developments on a day-to-day basis, and will be in a position to consolidate and formally announce the relative arrangements when the electoral process gets under way, he added.

Meanwhile, sources involved in the talks have told MaltaToday that drive-through voting would see voters remaining in their car while a runner dressed in protective gear would hand over the ballot sheet relative to the district in which the person is registered.

The ballot would be placed in a mixed box since people from different electoral districts would be voting at the same booth, similar to what happens in hospitals.

But talks have focussed on every step of the electoral process to ensure adequate safety protocols are introduced in line with recommendations from the health authorities.