Kampala, Uganda | URN | Voters will not be allowed to witness the counting of votes at polling stations due to COVID-19 Standard Operating Procedures [SOPs]. This is according to the Electoral Commission [EC].
Justice Simon Byabakama, the Electoral Commission chairperson who was speaking at the ceremony to dispatch polling materials said that in the wake of COVID-19, they will allow specific people like agents of candidates, EC officials and security personnel only at the polling stations.
Byabakama says that although it is a right for people to witness the vote counting, few people that will remain behind will ensure transparency. He says that it is also dangerous to keep people of different political parties and supporters of rival candidates in the same area.
“It is your right to cast your vote, but we are saying you cannot allow overcrowding in this era of COVID-19. Can you observe social distancing when counting…the excitement?.”
He advised voters to go back home after voting and not hang around to wait for the vote counting.
According to the original Electoral Commission [EC] guidelines, for the sake of transparency, voters had a right to attend and witness the process of counting of votes.
The Presidential Elections Act had said that voters can stay at least 20 meters from the polling station.
“Voters who have cast their votes and all other persons in the vicinity of the polling station other than election officers, candidates, candidates agents and observers shall stand or sit at least twenty meters away from the table.”
Rogers Bicwa says people need to protect their votes and ensure transparency during the counting.
Paul Bukenya, the Electoral Commission [EC] spokesperson also said voters who come to the polling station without masks will be turned away.
About the tally centres being planned by the opposition, Byabakama said “I do not understand the rationale of this tally centre and what its poisiton is in law, it is not there. The EC will give every candidate a copy of the declaration of results from each polling station.”
“I do not understand the concept of the tally centre, but if you are going to use it to announce your own results, when the law says it is only the EC to declare results, then you are playing a dangerous game and law enforcement will have to come in.”