‘Suspicious’ marks delay poll
ADVANCE-VOTING was delayed by almost three hours at the Maseru Sun Cabanas Polling Station yesterday due to a complaint by one of the early voters that the ballot papers had “suspicious” marks.
The early vote was meant to cater for Basotho working at the country’s embassies worldwide, as well as state security, medical and media personnel who are expected to be on duty on 28 February when the rest of Basotho cast their votes.
However, after one of the voters had complained that the box he wanted to tick was already “marked”, the centre had to be closed while the station manager, Thato Moeti, consulted senior Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) officials over the issue.
About 200 people were already at the Maseru Sun Cabanas Polling Station when it opened at 7am, but they waited patiently as Ms Moeti consulted her superiors.
Asked about the “suspicious marks” Ms Moeti told the Sunday Express she and her IEC colleagues at the station had not been aware of them — only to be later told that they were security features.
“As you can see, we opened at the prescribed time of 7am, but had to close the station because one of the early voters complained that the box he wanted to tick was already filled; he complained that there was a suspicious mark on the ballot paper,” Ms Moeti said.
“We had to consult senior IEC officials who told us that it was a security feature of three blue watermarks on the right hand side of every ballot paper. And when we checked all the papers, together with party agents, we realised that it was true — they all had the features.”
But the station manager had a hard time explaining the marks to the waiting voters, with some still not convinced they were security features but “vote-rigging”.
“We use black ink to mark the ballots and that blue line is not going to affect the tick. However, since some people are saying they are not convinced with my explanation that this is a security feature, the IEC suggested that they should use a puncture to indicate where they would want to put their mark,” she added.
Ms Moeti also said political party leaders would be informed of the security feature to avoid further problems when the rest of the nation votes next Saturday.
Meanwhile, voting started 30 minutes late in Khubetsoana due to the late-arrival of party agents. Every political party has to be represented at all polling stations to ensure transparency.
According to the station manager, Lenkoe Mofelehetsi, party leaders should tell their agents that they need to adhere to set poll timetables to avoid unnecessary problems.
“We could not open the station before examining the electoral material with the party agents, so we had to wait for them, hence voting started 30 minutes late — at 7:30,” Mr Mofelehetsi said.
The Sunday Express was told voting went relatively smoothly throughout the country. A total of 3549 people were expected to cast their ballots yesterday.