Educate voters well

Editorial

MUCH has been said about educating voters to be better informed so they know who to vote in the national general elections. Researchers say most people in Papua New Guinea cast their votes for the candidates they think is mostly likely to help them directly or help their families or their village. All elections, despite the much-published campaign to vote on party policies and look out for personal traits in a candidate, it’s obvious that the trend for localised or penalised benefits votes continued and is expected to continue in the 2021 national general elections. The only way to move away from that is through quality education in all schools. The issue of quality education must be addressed by all concerned authorities so at least the next generation of voters or those voting in the next two elections understand what party policies mean, what to look out for in candidates and, basically, vote without fear or favour. Relevant authorities and the public have spoken out airing their concerns on the trend of voting for localised or penalised benefit. Those who are endorsed by political parties use the campaign period to outline their policies or platforms – what their party stands for and, as individuals, how they will deliver when they are elected into parliament. Then we also have those who are running as independent candidates who also have their target list of things to do when elected. Most voters in this county are the rural majority, which means they are either illiterate or semi-literate. Most policies turn out to be similar with the ultimate target of delivering service to the people, which is really not fair on our people in the rural areas as they are caught up between penalised voting and following what others like Transparency International, the Ombudsman Commission or even the Electoral Commission through their various awareness programmes. The high number of informal votes in various elections could mean a lot but the main reason would be that the voter does not understand the voting system.
Despite the awareness of the limited preferential voting (LPV) system, many still do not understand that it allows three choices for the voter. Understanding the counting rules will also assist in understanding how a winner is determined and help you cast your vote wisely. In the LPV system, there are two distinct parts to counting votes. The primary count is the first part. At the end of the primary count, they must determine if a candidate has received 50 per cent + 1 of the first preference votes to be declared the winner. Realistically, it will take more than just talking through awareness, seminars and road shows to achieve the change in mentality on this issue. Like in previous editorials, the educated elites have the chance now to make a change – to reach out to the rural population and educate them on the electoral process. If there is no education, be rest assured that the voting trend of casing votes for candidates who they think and know is mostly likely to help them directly or help their families or their village will happen again.  And the trend will continue if nothing constructive is done.

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