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Uganda Polls: EC’s Byabakama: Phones are Restricted to Protect Secrecy of Election Exercise


The Electoral Commission on Sunday said its  restricting use of cameras and recording gadgets inside polling stations to maintain the integrity of the election exercise amid protests from opposition.

“Given the nature of our polling booth, which is an open basin, the presence of cameras in side polling stations may jeopardise the secrecy of the ballot, due to uncontrolled use of cameras and other recording devices,” said EC chairperson Justice Simon Byabakama.

“Please note that the secrecy of the ballot is aimed at ensuring that a vote is anonymous and cannot be traced back to the person who cast it,” he added.

The restrictions on gadgets have since attracted anger from the opposition.

FDC Secretary General, Nathan Nandala Mafabi in a letter penned on January 6, 2021 demanded for the laws that forbid the use of the named electronic gadgets.

“Kindly provide us with the laws that forbid the use of cameras and telephones at polling stations,” Mafabi wrote to Byabakama.

Mafabi wondered how the cases and evidence of irregularities are going to be documented and reported without the use of electronic devices. 

“How do we report cases of irregularities and provide evidence at polling stations without the use of phones or cameras, unless you want to rig elections?” he asked. 

Byabakama today said a secret ballot is fundamental in achieving peaceful, free and fair elections.

“While phones are not prohibited at polling stations, they must not be used for recording purposes or taking photographs inside the polling stations (the cordoned-off area),” said Byabakama.

 

“A voter must not display his/her choice of a candidate on polling day by taking a photograph, including a selfie, or recording a video of his/her marked ballot paper,” he added.

 

“Similarly, a voter must not display his/her choice of a candidate on polling day by marking his/her choice on the ballot paper in the open, outside the basin which has been provided for secrecy.”

Uganda have been using smartphones to record major events in the electoral process including acts of violence and also promoting their favorite candidates.

Byabakama said the measures being put in place were in line with Article 68(1) of the Constitution which provide that all public elections (Presidential, General Parliamentary and Local Government Councils) shall be by secret ballot, save for Administrative Units (LC 1 and LC II) Elections.

He said media personnel, who have been accredited to cover the elections, will be permitted to access polling stations and may take photographs of the voting process, but outside the cordoned-off area (polling station) in a manner that protects the privacy of voters and the secrecy of the ballot.

“The counting of votes cast at each polling station will be conducted openly, and a voter or candidate’s agent may take photographs or recordings of the counting process and/or take a photograph or record the issued Declaration of Results Form,” he emphasised.



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