Change voting system now

Editorial

IF the Moresby North West by-election is supposed to be a litmus test for the Electoral Commission going towards the 2022 national general elections, then Papua New Guinea is heading for trouble. Whether the results will be a true reflection of a free and fair one-day polling, only the good Lord knows. We have reports of people who were not able to vote because someone else had voted in their name, names of those (including families) who voted in the last 2017 election were not on the list, ballot papers ran out at polling booths forcing those who were eligible to vote missing the opportunity to exercise their constitutional right and list goes on. The above and many more are likely to happen come next elections. Year in year out since the first election, recommendations have been submitted by independent observers for changes to be made and most of these reports are collecting dust somewhere at Waigani.Most issues encountered during elections can be reduced and gradually eliminated if PNG gets the biometric voter system right. There have been talks and talks and nothing has been done.It is only 11 months to the start of the 2022 national election process and if the disappointments on Friday by eligible voters voiced are the reality then what hope is there for next year?As we write this editorial, there is little or no real progress made on biometric voter registration. The use of this technology is critical if we want to avoid the many mistakes and abuses of the electoral process in the past.In the past, people moved around searching for their names at different polling sites. Some polling area allowed voters to cast their vote without checking the list because polling officials failed to bring the electoral list.Some centres say voters told polling officers and the assistant returning officers who they wanted to vote and everyone, including candidate scrutineers, stood around and listened in. Children as young as a 7-year-old voted right in front of the officials. Others were left disappointed that their names were not on the electoral roll.While the parliamentarians from the different governments enter into the blame game on what should have been done, electoral voting will not be in effect for the 2022 national general elections.If there was any hope on the national identification (NID) programme, that too is off the tick list as it had been stopped The use of the common roll alone to verify the identity and number of voters in electorates has failed in some places as candidates or voters have time and again challenged the legitimacy of the roll and therefore, the end result of elections based on such voter listings.The compromised election results also contribute to the high number of petitions which cost the parties and the State itself a lot of money and time that could be better spent. A national election is a critical periodic event that every eligible citizen is expected to actively partake in to select the next group of men and women to become parliamentarians who, despite what many may think, hold tremendous power to determine what direction the country takes. As we said last week and will say it again, if we don’t get it right and conduct a good election, we shouldn’t expect the best in the front seat to unravel the true potential of a richly endowed land such as ours.

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