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Sri Lanka’s election chief promises infection-free parliamentary polls this week

ECONOMYNEXT – Voters in Sri Lanka can rest assured they will not contract COVID-19 at a polling station this week as the country is set to finally hold its twice-postponed parliamentary elections on Wednesday (5), Election Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya said.

Compulsory face masks, social distancing and hand sanitising will mark polling day in Asia’s oldest democracy this week as Sri Lanka gets ready to elect its parliamentary representatives in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic. 

“It is absolutely compulsory to wear a mask at the polling station,” Deshapriya said today, issuing a series of guidelines to be followed by voters on polling day.

Upon entering the premises of the polling station, voters must present their national identity card (NIC) and reveal their face to the election officers on duty.

“Do not forget to bring a valid identity card with you,” Deshapriya stressed. 

Voters may bring their NIC, their driving licence, passport, retired citizen ID or other identity document issued by the government of Sri Lanka.

“If you do not have any of these IDs, it is compulsory to obtain an ID issued by the Election commission from the Gramasewaka Niladhari,” said Deshapriyia.

Hand sanitiser will be provided to voters every time they make contact with a person or surface at the polling station.

Electoral ink used at the polling station to prevent double voting will be applied with a special waxed paper and not with a permanent marker as was the traditional medium, the EC chairman said.

A 1 metre distance will be maintained between people at the premises at all times.

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Assuring voters that all measures have been taken to prevent infection at the polling station, Deshapriya said: “There is no possibility of contracting this virus at a polling station. So you can come to vote without fear.”

“We will also provide hand sanitiser for you on your way out of the premises. That way you won’t bring in the virus nor take it with you,” he added.

Deshapriya asked voters to take their own blue or black ballpoint pen to mark their ballot paper in order to minimise the use of pens issued by the polling station. 

“Otherwise we will provide you with sterilised pens to cast your vote,” he said.

Explaining the voting process, Desahpriya said voters may only vote for one party or one individual candidate.

“Once you have the ballot paper in your hand you might have already decided what party or symbol you want to vote for. On this paper, you may mark in the blank space we have provided for you in front of the symbol. But you may only mark one,” Deshapriya said.

“If you are voting for an individual candidate or individual party, you can vote for them in the space we have provided for them.”

Deshapriya urged voters to use only one cross mark on the ballot paper and not to use any kind of other markings because otherwise it will be rejected. 

After voting for the symbol, the numbers of the candidate will be provided in the bottom of the ballot paper.

“If you are voting for a number, then we have provided those numbers at the bottom of the paper,” Deshapriya said.

“Now you have already marked a cross in front of the symbol of the party or the individual that you decided to vote for,” he added, demonstrating the ballot paper.

While voters may vote only one symbol, they may vote for three of the numbers that will be displayed at the bottom of the paper. 

“If you have a specific number you wish to vote for, look for the number at the bottom of the paper and draw a cross on the number,” Deshapriya said.

“If you want to vote for another number, then cross on that number as well. If you want to vote for a third number, then look for that number and draw a cross on it. You may only vote for three numbers. If you cross only the numbers and ignore putting a cross in front of a symbol of one party or an individual candidate those votes will be rejected as well.”

“You also have the option of not voting,” he added.

Deshapriya further said voters should only consider the numbers at the bottom of the paper and ignore any other number that is on the ballot paper.

“When you are voting for a number then look for them at the bottom of the paper. Do not cross any other number on the page such as identification number of individual candidates,” he said.

“After you vote, fold the paper and put it in the box,” he added.

Once their ballot paper has been carefully slid into the ballot box, voters must immediately vacate the polling station. No one will be permitted to stick around.

“After you vote, leave immediately; do not linger in the polling station premises for any reason.”

Voter’s privacy as well as freedom will be ensured inside the polling station, said Deshapriya.

“We have provided every facility to vote without any disruptions. You can vote freely, secretly and without fear. No one can discover whom you voted for; no one can pressure you to vote for a specific candidate. You have all the right to use your vote according to your preference,” he said.

The election chief also stressed on the importance of voting.

“Voting is every citizen’s right and might. It decides the future of the country for the next five years. You have the right to vote. You have the responsibility to vote and this is your power, your voice and your future. So come to the polling station and vote.  We can assure you 100 percent that we have taken every step to protect your health, and there is no possibility of contracting the virus at our polling stations,” he said.

“We will maintain a 1 metre distance. Our officers will be wearing face masks the entire time and on most occasions there will be a cover separating you and the election officers. Vote the correct way and be sure not to waste your vote,” he added. (Colombo/Aug3/2020)