Election Commission warns against voter buying

  • Commission to take legal action if caught buying or selling polling card and NIC
  • Complaints of candidates offering Rs. 5,000 plus phone for every vote cast
  • Mobile phones strictly prohibited in polling booth, says EC

The Election Commission yesterday cautioned the public against falling prey to election fraudsters, warning of severe action against anyone who was caught buying or selling votes.

With monetary rewards already being offered by some candidates for votes to be cast in their favour, Elections Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya is taking steps to implement stricter laws at polling stations during the upcoming Local Government Elections.

“We have heard that some have said that they will be paid Rs. 5,000 and given a new mobile phone if they take a picture of their ballot paper after casting the vote. We appeal to the public to not fall for that; that will not be allowed,” he said. In the 2008 election, over 450 individuals from Central Colombo polling stations were arrested within the first half hour of voting for similar offences.

As a preventive measure, the use of mobile phones within the premises of a polling station will not be allowed, he said. Taking any pictures within the premises is also prohibited.

Confirming that he has received complaints of individuals “buying” polling cards and ID cards from voters, he said that if anyone was caught doing so they could be arrested. The Commission will also take legal action against such persons, but there is little the Commission can do to prevent such action, he said.

“There is very little we can do if the people have fallen to the point of selling their vote to others,” Deshapriya said.

Meanwhile, police spokesperson Ruwan Gunasekara said that investigations into two such incidents were under way.

Deshapriya was also unhappy about the low turnout in postal voting as well. Despite having applied for the facility, the majority have not made use of it, he said.

In a bid to recover funds spent on unused postal votes, the Elections Commission will call for explanations from those who failed to cast their vote. If they are unable to give a valid reason for their failure to vote, steps will be taken to recover the cost of Rs. 750 per person spent to provide the facility.

Dispelling rumours that ballot boxes of postal votes had been tampered with, Deshapriya also sought to reassure the public that boxes have been kept in vaults in the Election Commission offices and were secure.

The counting of postal votes will only happen after 4.00 p.m. on Election Day on 10 February, he said, not before.

The Commission Chairman also urged all media houses and outlets to refrain from publishing or telecasting any footage of the bond debate or other political content during the silent period, as it may give an undue advantage to one candidate.

Appreciating the decision taken by Parliament to hold the bond debate on 6 February, he said media houses should exert caution in reporting the matter during the silent period to ensure that no party was favoured or disadvantaged by the reporting.

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