Namibia: ECN Allays Fears Over Voting in Pencil

People standing in line at the Erongo Regional office to get their duplicate voter cards.
25 November 2019

THE Electoral Commision of Namibia (ECN) has said voting in pencil is nothing new as it has been a practice used in the country since independence.

ECN chief electoral officer Theo Mujoro said this in response to concerns on social media and queries received by the commission.

Mujoro told The Namibian last week that voting by using pencils is an age-old practice, which is especially employed when the ballot voting system is used.

Namibians living abroad questioned the legitimacy of the recently conducted special voting, expressing concern about the fact that they cast their votes in pencil, and not permanent ink.

Many of them voted in the special presidential and National Assembly elections at Namibian foreign missions abroad, including in Zambia, Germany, Russia and the United States on 13 November.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a source who voted at the Namibian embassy in Lusaka, Zambia, said when he entered the voting booth, he noticed that there were instructions to use pencils instead of pens.

"I asked them if we were allowed to use pencils instead of pens, and they said we were because that is what they have been using the whole time," he explained.

He added that although he entered the voting venue with his own pen, he was instructed to use the pencils provided instead.

Another citizen residing in Moscow, Russia, said they also used pencils to vote for their preferred candidate on the ballot papers.

"We did not really question this instruction because we did not have much information on the procedures of elections prior to voting," he observed.

The source said the pencils were already in the voting booths, and he did not see any pens inside.

Mujoro added that since the 1989 United Nations-supervised elections, pencils have been used during the electoral process.

"Before we introduced the EVMs in 2014, we used ballot papers, and when people went to cast their votes, they would find the good old pencil at the polling station.

So, in this case, we made pencils available so that when people come to vote, they used them to make the cross," he said.

He reiterated that the use of pencils to vote was a procedure that has always been there, and it has not changed.

Clearing up speculation that the votes could be rigged, Mujoro said that would be impossible as the ballot boxes are sealed, and the seal is then broken publicly.

"No one will have an opportunity to erase anything because our ballot boxes are sealed. The seals have serial numbers, and when the counting starts, the seals are broken in the presence of everybody," he continued.

"So, my sister, there is nothing untoward. It is part of the process, it is part of how we organise our logistics. It is not like it was a mistake or anything of the sort for us to make available pencils," he stated.

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