Groups highlight voting failures

National, Normal

The National,Wednesday 13th of February, 2013

MANY people in East New Britain did not participate in limited preferential voting awareness resulting in many informal votes recorded in the last national election.
This was among other experiences shared by the four civil society organisations involved in awareness before and during the elections.
The four groups were Vunatekenabeo from Gazelle, Motoshimo from Kokopo, ENB field worker in Pomio and Ambassadors for Peace in Rabaul.
They were on contract funded under AusAID’s Electoral Support Programme to carry out awareness.
Their contract had expired and they have called on the provincial government and the four parliamentarians to support their work as there was still more to be done to help educate the people.
Chairman of Vunatekenabeo, John Potol said yesterday their awareness activities covered four main areas in limited preferential voting, voter enrolment, reducing electoral offences to enable a free, fair and safe election and mainstream of cross-cutting issues such as gender, participation of people living with disabilities (PLWD) and HIV/AIDS.
He said a post-mortem of the elections done last year in the highlands revealed that Kokopo and Kainantu in Eastern Highlands had the highest informal votes of more than 2,000 in the country.
Potol said Rabaul district had over 1,000 informal votes, Gazelle district close to 2,000 and Pomio district recorded less than 500.
He had questioned why Kokopo recorded the highest number and it was attributed to confusion among scrutineers regarding ballot papers.
“One rule was that there was to be no other marks on the ballot papers and because scrutineers identified betel nut stains on the ballot papers, they discarded them and in the process may have destroyed a lot of good ballot papers.”
Potol suggested that scrutineers should be trained under the provincial electoral office and must have certificates to control counting and many scrutineers were supporters of intending candidates.
He said electoral offences were also high; there was no proper awareness on HIV/AIDS especially in the Gazelle district.
“Those groups that received funding under the National AIDS Council must come out clear on what it was they were engaged in to help in awareness.”
Potol said with regards to participation PLWDs in the elections, there must be a trial conducted of the election process to give more confidence to them.
However, he said the interest shown by females to participate in the elections had improved.