MaltaToday | 06 April 2008 | Electoral commission refuses to divulge number of illiterate voters

NEWS | Sunday, 06 April 2008

Electoral commission refuses to divulge number of illiterate voters

James Debono

The Electoral Commission is refusing to divulge the number of illiterate voters to MaltaToday, which requested the number of voters seeking assistance in the polling booth in the 1998, 2003 and 2008 elections.
“The information you request for 1998 and 2003 is not available. As regards the latest election, given that the time and cost to manually retrieve such information are substantial, it is considered that such an exercise is not justified,” the electoral commission’s assistant director George Saliba told MaltaToday.
MaltaToday requested this information to verify a claim made by Labour MP Anglu Farrugia that the number of illiterate voters has increased in the March 8 election.
Farrugia alleges that persons trading their votes for money or favours declared that they were illiterate to allow party agents in the polling booth to verify whether they had really voted for the Nationalist Party.
Farrugia even explained how this system worked: “Let us say that Angelo was going to vote in Gronier Street in polling booth number 405. Upon entering the polling boot, Angelo declares that he needs assistance because he is illiterate. In this way those involved would have know that Angelo voted for the PN. There were many illiterates in this election.”

Mobile phones in the polling booth
In the interview with MaltaToday Anglu Farrugia also alleged that persons selling their vote were also asked to take photos or videos of their vote using their mobile. Farrugia claims to possess a video of someone voting for the PN.
Before the election, the Electoral Commission notified that the use of mobile phones, cameras or other photographic equipment was prohibited in polling places. Anyone taking photographs video without authorisation was to have his or her equipment confiscated.
A sign was also attached to each polling booth warning voters not to use their mobile.
Chief electoral commissioner Edward Gatt told MaltaToday that nobody was apprehended breaking this rule during this general election, although a person was caught doing so in a recent local election.
Italy has just issued a law banning voters from carrying mobile phones in to the polling boot. In forthcoming Italian elections voters will be asked to deposit their mobile in a chest before entering the boot.
Police will be empowered to conduct searches on voters and to impose fines on those carrying their mobile with them while voting.
Italian Minister Guliano Amato explained that this measure is aimed at eliminating votes exchanged for politicians’ favours.
The so-called "voto di scambio" system has plagued Italian politics for the past decades and Amato fears that modern technology can enable corrupt politicians to request definitive proof of their clients’ votes.

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