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Vote counting could become electronic

The aim is to reduce the counting time. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

The aim is to reduce the counting time. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

The long wait – seemingly an eternity – for the results of national elections could become a thing of the past.

The Electoral Commission is eyeing the adoption of an electronic vote counting system.

A Request for Information was published in Tuesday’s Government Gazette to enable the commission to conduct market research on the feasibility of such a system.

The aim is to reduce the counting time while retaining the ballot paper format, voting system and centralised counting centre.

At the moment, it takes about 12 hours for the official result of the first count in national elections to be issued and up to four days for the full result to come out after all the counts are worked out.

“Counting and sorting thousands of ballot papers received centrally from 110 polling centres and close to 700 ballot boxes is a large and delicate task… [and] long and laborious,” the commission states in its RfI.

The Maltese Islands are divided into 13 electoral districts and 68 local councils, with around 400,000 registered voters. National legislatures are elected by single transferable vote, which is regarded as one of the fairest ways to translate voter choice into parliamentary seats.

The electronic vote counting system being sought by the electoral commission needs to be able to scan and compute all the results, filter dubious ballot papers and produce various detailed and statistical reports.

The commission is making it clear the RfI is for market research only and the prices to be submitted by companies interested in the possibility of supplying such a system would be for information purposes at this point.

Any reduction in the time it takes for election results to be known would be a welcome move. The long hours spent waiting has been a long standing joke, even among journalists, and ends up being part of the media coverage on Election Day.

It was also reflected in the live blog for the 2013 election on timesofmalta.com: “Delegates have been pressed up against the perspex for the best of 10 hours now, and the tiredness is beginning to show on many of their faces”.

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