Votes will be counted electronically after major parties agree on manual checks

A law to introduce electronic counting at elections will have to be passed this week because the European Parliament elections writ has to be issued in seven days’ time

The manual sorting of votes will be a thing of the past as parties are set to agree on electronic vote counting
The manual sorting of votes will be a thing of the past as parties are set to agree on electronic vote counting

Votes will be scanned manually for any irregularity before they are scanned electronically after the Labour Party accepted a proposal put forward by the Nationalist Party.

Sources privy to the discussions between both parties told MaltaToday that the agreement reached today will pave the way for electronic vote counting to be introduced.

The PN had flagged concerns about the new electronic system and last month proposed a manual check of votes to weed out dubious ballots before they are scanned.

The PL has accepted the proposal and both parties today agreed on the process to be followed.

Concerns about the electronic counting system were raised after a mock run earlier this year found that some dubious votes were not flagged by the system.

The agreement will stipulate that when ballot boxes are opened at the counting hall, all ballots will be placed face down.

At around 7am on Sunday, ballots will be turned face up, checked for dubious votes and scanned electronically.

In this way, sampling of votes taken by the political parties will give them the election result within half an hour.

The decision to turn ballots face up only in the morning avoids having an unofficial result from party samples being known at around 2am.

Sources told MaltaToday that the step to manually scan the ballot for any dubious markings might push the final result to a later time.

“I am now expecting to have the full MEP results very late on Sunday,” a source said.

This will still be significant progress over previous elections when Malta only got to know its six MEPs three days later. The new system will ensure that all six MEPs will be known by Sunday night.

George Vella’s first presidential act

The introduction of electronic vote counting will require changes to the law and these have to be enacted this week to enable the President to issue the election writ in time.

With Malta’s European Parliament and local council elections being held on 25 May, the election writ will have to be issued on Monday.

The writ will probably be George Vella’s first act as president. He takes his oath of office on Thursday.

Justice Minister Owen Bonnici this evening put forward the First Reading of a Bill to amend the law that regulates elections.

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