JAVED SHOOKA

WARBURTON

The Election Commission of Pakistan has not issued complete procedure and criteria for the acceptance or rejection of doubtful ballot papers polled in local bodies elections, thereby creating probability of objections to be raised by the affected candidates, it is learnt.

Earlier, the polled ballot papers were divided into two categories - valid ballot papers in the favour of all contesting candidates and invalid ballot papers - and the same would be written in the statement of the Count Form XIV, now Form XI. Similarly, the invalid polled ballot papers were on the discretion of the presiding officers whether to reject or accept them.

Now, the situation of invalid or rejected ballot papers is quite different. Such ballot papers will be called as doubtful polled ballot papers including: (1) ballot papers didn’t receive stamp and/or signatures on the backside of ballot papers; (2) ballot papers were polled correctly but received any thumb impression even a minor sign of ink anywhere on it; (3) ballot papers polled correctly but attached anything with it like currency note, chit, piece of paper etc; or (4) a blank or not stamped by voter.

However, the decision regarding such ballot papers will be made by returning officers after a few days of polling.

There may be another strange situation when a candidate is defeated by a few votes. The result of such candidates shall be declared after a few days by the returning officer.

It is concerned that ROs can do anything on desire and nobody can challenge it because nobody knows the procedure and criteria of acceptance of doubtful ballot papers. The Election Commission should eliminate the ambiguity of doubtful ballot papers by drawing a clear line of demarcation between valid and doubtful ballot papers in the second phase of local bodies elections.

The ECO should explain the preset criterion for acceptance of ballot papers without stamp and/or signature of voter; any thumb impression size, intensity or ink spot on ballot paper; of ballot papers having attached with currency note, chit, and piece of paper or any blank ballot paper etc.

Election Commission should declare a criterion for acceptance of doubtful ballot papers on the basis of which a presiding officer should have the final decision power to be used at the spot for the elimination of any doubt.

When contacted, Assistant District Election Commissioner Munawar Hussain Ghumman didn’t answer about criteria of decisions about doubtful votes.