Election officials count ballot papers during the September 2018 election. File photo/Telegraph

Amendment seeks rules for ballot paper disposal post-polls

Ismail Habeeb, vice-president and spokesman of the Election Commission, told Atoll Times that the amendment was sent to the Attorney General's Office.

21 February 2023

By Mohamed Muzayyin Nazim

The government had on Monday moved an amendment to the General Law on Elections to lay down in law the procedures under which ballot papers used in elections can be disposed after the official results are declared.

Procedures related to the destruction of ballot papers are no longer in law. Ballot papers are removed as per a regulation framed by the Election Commission.

The bill, which was first read out in the parliament on Monday, was introduced by Ibrahim Muizzu of Henveiru North constituency on behalf of the government. As a reason for introducing the Bill, he said:

  • To address the problems of law enforcement and to improve the implementation of election-related activities

  • Clarifying what is difficult to implement due to lack of clarity in the law

  • Amendments to certain electoral offences prescribed in the Act

One of the major changes in the bill is that it lays down procedures related to the disposal of ballot papers. According to the bill, the Election Commission shall preserve and maintain the documents and material used to cast votes for 30 days from the date of declaration of official results. 

The documents and materials being looked at are as follows:

  • 1-

    Materials used in the voting process

  • 2-

    The remaining ballot paper and its counter foil

  • 3-

    The ballot paper

  • 4-

    Counter foil of ballot papers used to cast votes

  • 5-

    If there is, all damaged ballot papers

  • 6-

    Provisional result sheets

  • 7-

    Lists of eligible voters, which were used at the polling booth, including the list mentioned by those who issued ballot papers

According to the amendment, the commission will have to ensure that no election-related case has been filed in the court within 30 days of the declaration of official results, as long as the court does not decide otherwise. Subsequently, as per the rules framed under the Act, the commission can remove all election-related documents and material, including ballot papers, the bill said.

Ismail Habeeb, vice-president and spokesman of the Election Commission told Atoll Times that the amendment was sent to the Attorney General's Office on the request of the commission.

"The current practice is to remove ballot papers if no such complaint has been filed anywhere within 14 days of the declaration of official results under the election rules. With this amendment in the law, we will get two more weeks," Habeeb said.

It is noteworthy that the then President and current opposition leader Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, who had unsuccessfully contested the last presidential election in 2018, expressed concern that the ballot papers of the last presidential election had been removed by the commission too quickly and hastily.

At that time, the ballot papers had been destroyed after the Supreme Court decided on his constitutional plea regarding the elections. The court concluded that there were no complaints that could alter the outcome of the elections.