HRCM finds discrepancies in standards used for invalid ballots

Members of the HRCM speak to press. (File Photo/HRCM)

The Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) says it observed discrepancies in standards applied by different polling stations to judge valid and invalid ballots during the presidential election on Saturday, which the commission said resulted in a lot of ballots getting rejected.

In a press conference on Tuesday, HRCM’s president Mariyam Muna said that some of the polling stations deemed ballots with checkmarks that were embolden or weren’t straight as more than one mark, and were rejected as invalid.

“A lot of ballots, some 4,800 ballots, were deemed invalid in this manner. We want to note that it is of great concern to us. If the marks were emboldened twice, then there’s a possibility that, for example, it is the first time for voters with visual impairments to vote with stencils,” she said.

Muna said that if ballots with emboldened marks were deemed invalid, then there’s a possibility that the ballots of voters with visual impairments were also rejected.

She said that the commission also observed that photos were taken from more than 10 feet from voting booths in some of the polling stations, and electoral officials did nothing to stop it.

HRCM said it is working with the Elections Commission to find a solution to the issue.

Muna said that overall, the voting process went smoothly in a systematic manner.

“We commend the Elections Commission for how well the voting was conducted, overall,” she said.

International observers have had similar praise for the Elections Commission.

In the first round of voting in the 2023 presidential election held on Saturday, the PPM-PNC coalition’s candidate Dr. Mohamed Muizzu won 46 percent with 101,635 votes, while MDP’s Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, the incumbent president, won 39 percent with 86,161 votes.

Neither won the majority needed to win the election outright, and the winner is set to be decided in the second round of voting on September 30.