Last month, the IEC issued a press release indicating that the reason for the postponement of the voter registration was due to logistical challenges being experienced due to “procurement of materials and equipment needed for the successful conduct of the vote registration.”
However, what they failed to indicate in their said press release is the new date for the voter registration exercise. It’s crystally clear that for the much anticipated 2021 presidential election to be successfully held on 4 December there should be a massive voter registration with a view to enabling eligible Gambians the right to acquire voters’ cards and peacefully exercise their franchise.
In fact, the IEC is also planning to change the system of voting from marble system of voting to paper balloting. If that is anything to go by, and taking into account that it would be the first time in the history of the country that Gambians would be voting through paper balloting, then massive sensitization and education is needed to enable Gambians familiarise themselves with this system of voting, taking into account the level of illiteracy in the country.
Apparently, the ballot paper system too has its own pros and cons. Given the fact that the illiteracy level in The Gambia is high, then the question is how would some eligible voters recognise and tick the photo or party symbol of the candidate of their choice among others printed on a single sheet of paper, particularly in a case when they are not educated?
Another issue is, where would the ballot papers be printed and who would be in charge of their custody to the trust and satisfaction of all political parties and stakeholders in the country? Is there any guarantee that there would be no counterfeit? Given the fact that it’s almost 10 months before Gambians go to the polls to elect a president and still now there’s no voter registration. That looks almost impossible to use the paper balloting in the 2021 presidential election.
On the other hand, the iconic glass marbles have since become a curiosity for the rest of the world. The system proved to work well for Gambia as it is almost impossible to cheat in the elections taking into account that votes are counted on the spot after the closure of polls.
IEC therefore needs to act fast!