No cellphones in voting booth

Bame Piet

Cellphones and other electronic gadgets may no longer be allowed into voting booths after the government amended the electoral Act.

This was confirmed by the Minister of Presidential Affairs Kabo Morwaeng last week.

“Clause 8 of the Bill amends Section 54 of the Act by introducing a prohibition against entry into polling booths by voters, with any electronic devices such as cell phones, as some may be tempted to record or take a picture of their marked ballot papers to share with others, and in the process, compromising the secrecy of one’s ballot as enshrined in the law,” he said when presenting the Electoral Amendment Bill in Parliament.

He said the amendment of the Electoral Act is to ensure the impartiality and neutrality of registration and election officers under section 4 (3) as proposed in clause 2 of the Bill.

He added that the amendments will enable accurate and secure registration of voters by electronic and further proposes to introduce publication of the voters roll on electronic media, including the Independent Electoral Commission website.

Morwaeng said the new law will eliminate the need for ballot papers to be “embossed” as this has proved to be difficult to do with printing machines.

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“Instead the proposed provision is for ballot papers to be marked with an official mark, which shall be in the form to be determined by the Independent Electoral Commission,” he said.

He added that the new Electoral Act will introduce severe penalties for different election offences as a deterrent against committal of the said offences.

The new fines for disturbing or disrupting the counting of ballots or any other form of disorderliness during election day will attract a fine of P7,500.00 or a two year imprisonment term.

“These fines may be imposed where any candidate makes any material false statement of fact in his return and doing so knowing it to be false, for failing to comply with a condoning order, for corrupt practices, for providing money for payments contrary to the Act, for performing illegal practices and for a witness who, in the course of the trial of an election petition, wilfully makes false statements,” the minister said.

A similar fine of P7,500.00 will be imposed for the offence of failure to provide the name and address of the printer and publisher of a billboard, placard, poster, pamphlet, circular or other printed matter having reference to an election.

Meanwhile a P5,000.00 fine will be applied on any person who commits serious offences in relation to voter’s registration cards while P1,000.00, or 2-year imprisonment term will be imposed on offences relating to nomination papers, ballot papers and ballot boxes.

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In general, the new Electoral Act will impose heavy penalties for any offences related to elections compared to the old one.

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