Voting

 Voting is the process at which voters exercise their franchise in choosing the leadership of their country.

 
The Gambia has a unique system for casting the ballot. Voters are issued with a token/marble which is inserted through a hole in the drum of the choice of candidate of the voter.

Election Observation is an important component of the electoral process. In short, it is one of the parameters to ensure a free and fair election. There are two different types of election observers:

International observers:

These comprise of international bodies or organisations, embassies, charities, democratic institutions etc.


Domestic observers:

These comprise of local organisations, media houses, democratic institutions etc. 

The observation process begins from the registration of voters to the counting and dissemination of results. If it is difficult for the observers to come, during the registration of voters they come before the nomination of candidates. This enables them to judge whether the resources be it airtime, or otherwise, are equitably distributed or accessible to all the parties or candidates.

Usually, there is a briefing session for all the accredited observers wherein they are given the materials needed for the job. There is also a de-briefing session at the end of the elections. This is when they submit provisional reports on the election observation. They then submit actual reports to the commission at a later date on their findings.

The final stage of the election process on polling day is the counting of votes and the dissemination of results for the various candidates who contest the elections. Section 73 of the Elections Act mandates the I.E.C to designate counting centres prior to Election Day and these centres are published in the Gazette and announced in the media for public consumption.

  • Immediately after the close of polls ballot drums are transported together with the party /candidate agents (polling agents), security officers and polling staff to the various designated counting centres across the country. 
  • The polling agents who accompany the ballot drums hand over responsibility to the counting agents.
  • On arrival at the counting centre ballot drums are assembled in a sequential order. Counting of votes does not start until all ballot drums to be counted in that specific counting centre arrive.
  • Counting begins after the Returning Officer or the Assistant Returning Officer has commissioned the Counting Agents to an Oath of Secrecy.
  • Counting agents can confirm the serial numbers used to seal the lids of the ballot drums before the start and after the close of polls.
  • The Presiding Officer (counting officer) then breaks the seals and the content inside the ballot drums are poured in a sieve to separate the sand or sawdust from the tokens.
  • The tokens are then transferred onto counting trays. There are two types of counting trays - one with two hundred holes and the other with five hundred holes. This makes it easy to determine the votes a candidate has in a polling station, by counting the complete rows filled, expediting the count, and making it more transparent to all present.
  • The same process is followed until all ballot drums of a polling station in a constituency or ward are counted.
    (N.B. In an instance where a counting agent is not satisfied with the count, he/she has an opportunity to demand a recount, but this cannot be done more than twice).
  • The results of the various polling stations of an Electoral Division are entered on a form and then summed up to give the totals in a contested area.
  • The results are then announced locally and then faxed to the IEC Headquarters where party representatives have the opportunity to see the result forms as they come in before the Chairman finally announces the results on Television and Radio.

A voter is expected to vote where he/she is registered.
This is usually the closest polling station to where  he/she lives or resides. Yet still, he/she may choose to register where he/she was born.
The polling station code and constituency of each voter is clearly written on the voter's card. With this, the voter can easily identify where he/she is eligible to vote.

Before voting, the following conditions need to be met:

  • be in possession of a Gambian voter’s card
  • present oneself at the right polling station
  • must have one’s name on the Register / counterfoil
  • must not be serving prison term
  • must not be of unsound mind
  • must not be in a state of inebriation.

A team of three persons in hierarchical order man each polling station: the Presiding Officer, the Assistant Presiding Officer and the Polling Officer. 

Polls open at 7.00 am and close at 4.00pm, however, if there are voters in the queue at 4.00pm, they will be allowed to cast their ballot.

The procedure for voting is based on the provisions as of the Elections Decree.
The voting process occurs in this order:

  • Voter enters polling station
  • Voter reports to the Assistant Presiding Officer (APO), who checks the voter's card against the Register of Voters/counterfoil.
  • APO checks that the voting card is genuine and the identity of the voter correlates that in card..
  • Once satisfied, the APO draws a line through the serial number on the Alphabetical register of voters
    (N.B. If the voter is under any query as to his/her identity, the voter is referred to the Presiding Officer)
  • Voter then reports to the Polling Officer
  • The Polling Officer dips the voter's left forefinger into indelible ink to ensure that they have been identified as eligible to vote.
  • Voter proceeds to the Presiding Officer, who checks the voter's finger and then hands him/her a marble/token.
  • Voter enters the voting compartment and drops the marble/token in his/her chosen ballot drum.
  • The Presiding Officer listens to the sound of the token/marble hitting the drum.
  • The voter then leaves the voting compartment.