The Elections Department is considering a change in the format of ballot papers, restrictions on the number of counting centre agents and the introduction of more ballot boxes to deal with problems arising from the increased number of candidates for the April 8 general elections.
A senior election official said yesterday these and other measures were being considered because of practical difficulties in conducting the polls and the counting of votes.
He said the time factor was one of the major problems as 50-inch ballot papers in some areas would be difficult to handle at the polling booths.
He said Election Officials in districts where a large number of parties and independent groups were contesting have suggested two-sided ballot papers and circular papers in order to deal with the problems.
“It will take to detach long ballot papers and hand them over to the voters. After that the voters will have to go through a long list of names and mark their vote along with their preferential votes. Then this paper will have to be folded and that too is time consuming. Counting these votes will also take additional time,” he explained.
A total of 7620 candidates are contesting from 637 recognised parties
and independent groups in 22 electoral districts.
Citing the Batticaloa District as an example, the official said 360 candidates from 45 political parties and independent groups were contesting.
The District’s Assistant Elections Commissioner, T. Krishnanandalingam said he was expecting the ballot paper to be as long as 30 inches or about 2½ feet which was almost double the length of the ballot paper used in the last general election.
“Because of the length of the ballot paper we can only accommodate around 600 ballots in one ballot box whereas we could have put around 1000 in previous elections. We will need about 250 extra boxes,” he said.
This meant the district would need 700 boxes for the April 8 elections in contrast to the 450 at the 2004 polls.
Meanwhile, the Government Factory has been ordered to provide 1,500 ballot boxes by March 25.
Mr. Krishnanandalingam said political party leaders and independent group leaders would be allowed to have only two representatives this year at a counting centre due to accommodation problems despite the number of counting centres being doubled.
He said that an extra day might be needed for counting
Similar problems are being faced in the Digamadulla District where 660 candidates from 66 parties and independent group are contesting. Elections officials said the number of polling officials had been tripled for polling and counting duties
The number of counting centres had been increased from 29 to 45.