Painstakingly slow vote-counting a new challenge for EC

Published On: May 16, 2017 12:10 AM NPT By: Gyan P Neupane  | @GyaNeupane

KATHMANDU, May 16: As the counting of votes for Sunday's first phase local elections  begins at various local units, this task  has turned out to  be painstakingly slow, indicating that it may take weeks  if  the authorities don't find a way to speed  up the process.

Poll officials and candidates' representatives  involved in the counting point to the large-size ballot papers and the pattern of voting across parties  as major reasons behind the slow pace of counting in Kathmandu Metropollitan City (KMC) and elsewhere.

The counting  has become more complicated in the capital  and other major towns due to the large number of  political parties and independent candidates. Altogether 28 candidates are contesting for mayor of KMC and 13 for deputy mayor. 

“Vote counting is underway but it is too slow . It may take weeks for the final results,” said CPN-UML lawmaker Rambir Manandar, who was at the counting center at Rastriya Sabhagriha on behalf of a party candidate.

He also said the large number of candidates was one of the reasons behind the slow pace. 
“The counting officials  need to show each ballot paper to the representatives of all the candidates and get it endorsed by them. This has slowed the process significantly,” said Manandhar.

The vote counting for KMC began in earnest after 2 pm on Monday but it took around six hours to count just 200 votes.

Manandhar said that at this pace, it may take over two weeks to complete the count. 

Sarwottam Dangol, CPN (Maoist Center) candidate for KMC mayor, also said  the delay was caused by the ballot paper size. He said it has become necessary to find some way to speed up the count.
“It is taking around four minutes to count a single ballot. It will take days and weeks to complete the counting in all 32 wards of  KMC,” he said.

Those involved in the counting  said once the ballot paper is unfolded by  EC officials, they need to  first check it from top to bottom and show it to all the representatives of candidates present  to make  sure it is valid. “I suggested to them to use a projector to show the ballot papers  more quickly to  the representatives,” said Dangol.

He also estimates that the number of invalid votes may reach 15 percent. 

Former chief election commissioner Neelakantha Uprety suggested that the EC  increase the number of counting centers. “Counting votes at a single point for all  32 wards of  KMC can't solve the problem. So, the EC should start the counting at multiple points,” he said. “They should also show the ballot papers  to the representatives through a projector. This can help speed up the count,” he added.

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