Secret vote not a secret

By Himal Kotelawala

Voters under the impression that only they know which parties or persons they have voted for, discovered on election day that their votes are not such a secret after all.

Voters noticed election officials at polling booths noting down the serial numbers on the counterfoil of the ballot papers. Both the counterfoil and the ballot paper bear the same serial number.

Alarmed, they brought the matter to the notice of election monitoring bodies. It transpires that recording serial numbers is neither irregular nor illegal. In fact, it has been an elections practice for some time now.

According to W. P. Sumanasiri, Deputy Commissioner of Elections, election officials are expected to note the number on the counterfoil when they tear off the ballot paper and give it to the voter.

While it is not impossible to trace a voter by matching the serial numbers on the counterfoil and the ballot paper, to do so would require a great deal of time and effort.

Mr. Sumanasiri told the Sunday Times that no outsiders have access to the counterfoils, which are stored, sealed and disposed of by incineration six months after the polls.

According to election monitoring groups, this practice was observed at previous elections.

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