Vanuatu General Election 2020: All You Need To Know

Voter Registration

In early 2019 the Vanuatu Electoral Office (VEO) joined hands with the department of Civil Registry and Vital Statistics and launched a massive campaign called Civil and Voter Registration (CVR). In seven months the CVR teams visited all the six provinces and the 72 area council areas from June 2019 to January 2020. CVR operators issued birth certificates, national ID cards and electoral cards outreaching about 80% of the population.

CVR operators captured personal data and photos of citizens and entered in the database of the Electoral Office and the one of Civil Status.

Electoral Cards

For 2020 General Election only citizens registered and in possession of an Electoral Card can vote at the polling locations where the

Voters registered in a polling location of an urban areas (Luganville and Port Vila) were issued a red electoral card. A blue electoral card was issued to voters of rural areas

Proxy Votes

What is proxy voting?

A voter who cannot attend the polling station on election date may formally request to VEO to have his vote casted by another voter of the same polling station. The request must be only for elder age/health reasons or if the person is abroad or out his/her constituency on polling day. Also polling staff on duty in a polling station different from the one where they would vote may apply for proxy voting.

How does it work?

A proxy voter casts a vote for the person for whom he is proxy in the same manner as he casts his/her own vote. When a person votes as a proxy, he must produce his own voter card, the proxy form authorizing him to vote as proxy and the voter card of the person for whom he is voting. Another important requirement is that the proxy must be included on the electoral roll of the same polling station of the person(s) he/she is voting on their behalf.

Typically, a voter gets his/her left thumb inked with indelible ink, after casting his vote and collects back his/her electoral card. The voter who voted as proxy will get also his/her left index inked. If he/she votes on behalf of two voters (maximum number allowed for a proxy voter), he/she will also get his/her middle finger inked.

Applications were collected up to 4 March. Around 900 applicants filed their request. VEO is currently evaluating the veracity of the reasons and documents attached.

Candidate Nominations

Aspiring candidates for the national Parliament need to lodge with the VEO, within the nomination period as declared by the EC, a declaration of candidature in the corresponding form dully filled-in and signed by him, including a declaration that the applicant is eligible as provided by the law. The aspiring candidate should also make a deposit of VT 100,000 (non-refundable), as well as two full face personal photographs. Candidates nominated by a political party will be issued with the corresponding symbol as approved by the EC; independent candidates are required to produce an illustration on paper of his/her personal electoral symbol

A preliminary list of admitted candidates has been announced on Tuesday 3 March. Candidates had 72 hours to regularize their position.

Training

Training of all presiding officers and polling staff is currently ongoing. Following the cascade training approach, a master training was conducted on 2 and 3 March in Port Vila. Training will be replicated at provincial headquarter level, then at Area Council level. Finally, each presiding officer will conduct a final session of training to polling staff.

Polling Manuals

Polling and counting procedures have been condensed on a newly issued manual for polling staff.

The manual aims at consolidating the electoral practices and presenting them in a clear way for immediate guidance and use of the polling officers, as well as to ensure consistent and coordinated polling and counting operations.

Ballot Box

This year all 352 polling stations will use a new ballot box. The translucent lightweight ballot boxes will replace the wooden heavy padlock ballot boxes that have been used in Vanuatu for the last four decades. The light weight of these new ballot boxes will also ease transport, distribution and storage challenges faced due to the geography of Vanuatu.

The use of the translucent ballot box and numbered tamper-proof seals is a measure to enhance the integrity and transparency of the electoral process.

Seals

The use of numbered tamper-proof seals is a methodology applied in many places around the world for polling day voting procedures, as a measure to enhance the integrity and transparency of the electoral process.

Indelible Ink

As an additional measure to prevent frauds, VEO introduced the use of indelible ink for 2020 General Election. A high-quality ink bottle will be provided to each polling station. Voters after casting their ballot and before leaving the polling station will get their left thumb inked. This is an additional measure to prevent multiple voting and voting by using documents of a different person. In fact, voters who has already the finger inked will not be allowed to vote again.

Accreditation Badges

VEO will issue accreditation badges to every single person allowed to stay in one or more polling station. This measure aims at enhancing the transparency of the process by ensuring people present in the polling stations are authorized by VEO.

Media, Observers and political party/candidate agents will be requested to sign and obey to a Code of Conduct which sets their rights and responsibilities

Observers

VEO is currently issuing accreditation to observers’ groups. Additionally, some diplomatic missions requested accreditation for diplomats and MPs to observe preparation, polling operations and counting of votes. To date, Melanesian Spearhead Groups established a mission with a total of 9 observers. Diplomatic missions are as follows:

British High Commission — 8;

China Embassy — 4;

France Embassy — 3;

Japan Consulate — 2;

New Zealand High Commission (plus MPs and members of political parties) -19;

US Embassy (Port Moresby) — 3;

Australia High Commission and Commonwealth of Nations also expressed their interest in accrediting observers.

Polling Day

On 19 March, 352 polling locations will open at 7:30 AM and close at 4:30 PM.

It is essential to have a valid electoral card to vote. Voters are encouraged to bring their national ID card as well, as a proof of identity. A voter without an electoral card will not be allowed to vote if he/she only has an ID card

People with a disability, elderly, pregnant or nursing voter will be given priority in the queue.

Once identified by polling clerks, voters will receive a book of ballot papers and a voting envelope. Into the voting booth voters will choose his/her candidate and places the chosen ballot into the envelope. Coming out of the booth, the voter will deposit his vote (envelope + ballot) in the ballot box and dispose the unused ballot papers in a closed bin. He/she will collect the electoral card, get the left thumb inked and exits the polling station.

Voting From Abroad

Registered voters in New Caledonia will cast their vote on 19 March 2020 at the Consulate of Vanuatu in Noumea. Voters registered in New Caledonia are added to the Port Vila constituency.

Counting

Votes are counted in the polling station, immediately following the close of polls. Counting is conducted by the polling station staff, with the presiding officer being the head of the counting staff. Political party and candidate agents, as well as electoral observers, are allowed to witness the counting inside the polling station; members of the public at large can follow the process from outside the polling station. Candidates are also allowed to be present at the count.

Following the official close of polls, the ballot box is opened and all envelopes are removed from the box. The presiding officer then takes the ballot papers from the envelopes and the ballots are sorted by candidate and invalid (‘void”). When all ballot papers have been sorted, they are counted for each candidate. The polling clerks record the number of votes cast for each candidate, and all invalid votes, on two tally sheets provided for that purpose.

During the count, the presiding officer will declare a ballot paper invalid (“void”) if: (a) any writing or mark in the ballot identifies the voter; (b) the ballot is not in an envelope or is in a non-official envelope; or © the ballot is in an envelope containing more than one ballot paper. Invalid votes are not counted.

At the end of the count, the presiding officer declares counting of votes completed and formally announces the votes cast for each candidate in the polling station. Immediately after declaring the counting of votes completed, the presiding officer completes the official report on polling, including the following information: a) the number of registered voters; b) the number of voters who voted; c) the number of invalid (“void”) ballot papers; d) the number of valid votes cast for each candidate; e) other matters required by the rules, and such other matters as the PEO may decide. The report is made in duplicate in French, English or Bislama and is signed by the presiding officer and the polling clerks. It is also countersigned by any of the candidates or candidate agents present at the count. After the report has been signed, it is placed in a sealed envelope; the presiding officer also seals in separate packets the counted and invalid ballots.

Both the report and the sealed packets (which are placed in the ballot boxes) are delivered to the registration officer responsible for the constituency.

Results

When a registration officer has received the ballot boxes with reports from the constituency’s polling stations, he ensures the ballot boxes are safely transferred to the EC headquarters in Port Vila. Tallying of results is done by the EC in Port Vila and, as soon as practicable, the EC announces the number of votes cast for each candidate in each constituency. The candidates with the highest number of votes win the corresponding seats and are declared elected.

Official results are only announced by the Electoral Commission.

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