Maltese elections are unique in the way hundreds of party activists and canvassers congregate inside the national counting hall to monitor the live count of votes, collecting tallies of the data as it is read out to calculate samples, and hit the Perspex separator wall hard when a vote is incorrectly counted. The process, which usually takes over three days to fully complete, usually delivers a first-count vote tally within 12 hours, but sampling of votes delivers a clear picture of who the winner is within the first hour of sorting. In November of last year, the vote counting hall in Naxxar was transformed to include a fully-functioning electronic system from Idox, a Scottish software company. Their technology will be used for the European Parliament and local council elections in May this year, less than two months from now. E-counting will be used in a bid to speed up the process and to minimise human error. Voting will still be a manual endeavour via a ballot paper.
Malta: PN’s trust in electronic counting ‘seriously decreased’ after changes without Commission’s consent | The Malta Independent
The Partit Nazzjonalista’s trust level in the new electronic vote counting system has “seriously decreased” after changes were made to the system by the company responsible for it without informing the Electoral Commission or the political party delegates. Speaking to this newsroom after a report published in The Malta Independent, PN Secretary Clyde Puli said that the PN had voted in favour of this system in parliament as it removes tension by reducing long waiting times; however after news of the non-consensual changes emerged following the system’s second mock test on Saturday, Puli said that their trust level in the system has “seriously decreased” and that they were “very concerned”. The PN demanded reassurances about what safeguards will be in place to ensure that no one can just change the system at will before they can re-affirm their status in favour of this system. The situation, Puli said, “is dangerous for democracy”.
Malta: New electronic vote counting system modified without Electoral Commission’s consent | The Malta Independent
Sources who were in the counting hall where the new electronic vote counting system was being tested yesterday expressed serious concerns over the way the system had been modified between the first and second mock test. It transpires that the company responsible for operating the system had made amendments to it without informing the Electoral Commission or the political parties’ delegates. Such changes made without their consent could be potentially dangerous, sources claim. During the first mock test of the new system in November, a number of concerns had been flagged, especially on the number of ballot sheets that the system failed to recognise and were subsequently passed on to a human adjudicator. This amounted to approximately 40 per cent of the votes.
Malta: Vote counting hall transformed as electronic system in place for European elections | Malta Today
The vote counting hall in Naxxar has been transformed into one equipped with a fully-functional electronic system, which will be first used for the European Parliament and local council elections in May next year. The new system will see the old manual method of counting votes ditched in favour of an automated e-Counting process, which will mean less time is taken for all votes to be counted, and the chance of human error is minimised. E-counting will also be used for the general election and local council elections in 2024. Chief Electoral Commissioner Joseph Church told the press, at an event showcasing the system, that two mock counts are planned to identify any teething troubles in the new system, one scheduled for Saturday, and the other for December. The latter will be a full-scale simulation of the counting process for the European elections.
With the European Parliament elections just round the corner, Malta is facing renewed calls to end the disenfranchisement of Maltese nationals who live overseas. The European Commission has repeatedly called on Malta and the five other countries to stop disenfranchising citizens by not allowing them to vote unless they reside in their home countries. The others are: Cyprus, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. In Malta, the issue is a bone of contention each time a general election rolls around, with political parties lodging court cases to have certain people struck from the electoral register under the voter registration rules in place. Citizens are disenfranchised unless they have resided in Malta for at least six months within the last 18 preceding their registration to vote.
Malta has become the second country in the European Union to lower the national voting age to 16. The revised voting age, down from 18, was cemented into law on Monday evening, with MPs voting unanimously in favour of a third reading of a Bill to amend the Constitution to that effect. 16- and 17-year-olds will now be able to cast a vote at national and European parliament elections, having been already granted that right for local council elections back in 2014. Their first opportunity to exercise this new right will come during the 2019 European Parliament elections, with the lowered voting age expected to add up to 8,500 votes to ballot boxes. Politicians from either side of the House were quick to celebrate the news on social media, with Prime Minister Joseph Muscat saying Malta had “made history, again” by passing the law.
Malta: Vote 16 white paper out by March 2018, to open up elections for another 5,000 votes | The Malta Independent
The government will be presenting the white paper on Vote 16 by March of next year paving the way for a potential 5,000 new voters to have their say in upcoming elections. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced this while attending a student debate at the Giovanni Curmi Higher Secondary in Naxxar. The topic was Vote 16 and students were allowed to ask questions to the Prime Minister who was accompanied by Parliamentary Secretary for Reform Julia Farrugia Portelli and the Parliamentary Secretary for Youth Clifton Grima. The Prime Minister said that the vote for 16-year-olds is no longer an issue of whether it will happen or not, but how will it be implemented. “We have a mandate to do pass Vote 16 and we intend to keep our promise.”
Malta: Legislative overhaul ‘will be required if 16 or 17-year-olds are elected mayors’ | The Malta Independent
In the hypothetical situation that a 16 or 17-year-old is elected as a local council mayor, changes will be required to existing legislation, according to Vote 16 committee chairperson Andrew Debattista. Yesterday morning, Parliamentary Secretary for Reform Julia Farrugia Portelli launched a consultation document on voting rights for 16-year-olds, called ‘Vote 16; Empowering Youth’. In the previous legislature, 16-year-olds voted in local council elections, and now there are plans to extend these rights to general elections and those for the European Parliament. The document also questions whether such youngsters could be allowed to contest local elections, with the possibility of becoming mayors if they have the highest number of votes.
Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat won a second term in office after calling a snap parliamentary election last month to counter allegations of corruption against his wife and some of his political allies. Muscat’s Labour Party won 55 percent of votes in Saturday’s election, handing it an absolute majority in the 65-seat parliament, according to political sources on both sides involved in the vote tally. The Labour Party had polled about five percentage points ahead of the rival Nationalist Party going into the vote. Nationalist Party chief Simon Busuttil called Muscat and conceded defeat on Sunday morning.
Yesterday’s voter turnout of 92.07% was the lowest turnout figure since the 1966 election, although it was only less than one percentage point lower than 2013’s turnout figure of 92.98%. In what can be described as a very long and painstaking night in politics, both the Nationalist and Labour parties have spent hours poring over the voter turnout figures in each electoral district, closely analysing who were those who decided to not cast a vote in yesterday’s general election.
The embattled Maltese government has claimed that it has come under attack from a Russian-backed campaign to undermine it, amid worsening relations with the Kremlin. Malta assumed the presidency of Europe’s Council of Ministers in January, an important position under which it chairs high-level meetings in Brussels and sets Europe’s political agenda. Since then, the Maltese government’s IT systems have seen a rise in attacks, according to a source working within its information technology agency, a government body. He claimed the attacks, which have increased ahead of next month’s general election, are designed to damage the government. “In the last two quarters of last year and the first part of this year, attacks on our servers have increased,” the source said.
The Russian spy story continued to reverberate on the campaign trail, as Prime Minister Muscat had to deal with the backlash of ridicule that erupted after his announcement that he had received information from two allied secret services that Russia was behind the Egrant saga. In the morning, the Prime Minister once again reiterated what he had said a day earlier, with much less drama, but he would not be drawn into saying whether he believed the story was true or otherwise. And nobody was expecting him to say yes or no. A “yes” would have brought even more disdain, and open up diplomatic issues, and a “no” would have been an admission that the story was nothing more than an attempt to win some sympathy.
Malta: Russian red herring for breakfast – Why would Putin want to elect Simon Busuttil? | The Malta Independent
Yesterday will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the more bizarre days in Maltese electoral history. But before delving into the somewhat murky waters of the Prime Minister’s cloak and dagger, and diplomatically dangerous, assertions about Russia’s nefarious interests in Maltese political affairs one central question needs to be asked: why, exactly would Vladimir Putin want to see Simon Busuttil elected? The fact of the matter is that if asked to choose a preferred leader of Malta, Putin would no doubt prefer a Socialist Prime Minister who has over his tenure consistently looked east and courted and sold state assets to countries such as Azerbaijan and China over a Christian Democrat who believes so wholeheartedly in the European project.
Malta: Nationalist Party claims it already received reports of defaced voting documents | The Malta Independent
The Nationalist Party has already received several reports of voting documents which were already defaced and had ink removed accidentally. PN Deputy Leader Beppe Fenech Adami said that there were police officers who complained that the fell off and was stuck on the palm of their hand. Dr Fenech Adami this afternoon addressed another press conference on the ‘flimsy documents’ printed by the electoral commission. The PN Deputy Leader yesterday claimed that the new voting documents, which were set to be distributed to households as from today, do not have the necessary safety features, and the ink can be easily wiped off.
Malta: Ink on new, supposedly secure voting documents can be easily rubbed off, PN reveals | The Malta Independent
The new voting documents, which are set to be distributed to households as from tomorrow, do not have the necessary safety features, and the ink can be easily wiped off, PN Deputy Leader Beppe Fenech Adami revealed this evening. Addressing a press conference, Dr Fenech Adami, accompanied by the PN Secretary General Rosette Thake, said that the PN was informed that due to a problem in the lamination machine, the documents were printed on plastic paper, instead of the standard lamination.
Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat on Monday announced early elections amid mounting corruption claims and opposition calls for his resignation. Muscat called new elections for June 3, nearly 10 months early, at a May Day rally of his ruling Labor Party supporters.
The 43-year-old prime minister has been under pressure in recent weeks after popular blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia made claims that his wife, Michelle, owned an offshore shell company in Panama. A magisterial inquiry has been launched into the issue. Owning offshore accounts is not illegal in Malta, but the revelations and investigation have created a political backlash.
The Electoral Commission has taken the plunge and issued a tender for an electronic vote counting system for use in all elections from 2019 onward. The advent of electronic voting will substantially trim down the time it takes to count votes, particularly given Malta’s laborious Single Transferable Voting system, which takes days on end to produce the full results of electoral polling. The new system is expected to produce election results in a matter of a few hours. In its tender announcement issued this week, the Electoral Commission has made it clear that the system will certainly not be employed in the next general election, whether that is to be held this year or next, and specifies that it will be first used for tallying the results of the 2019 European Parliament and Local Council Elections.
Malta: Labour Party still unsure on whether to extend general election voting rights to 16-year-olds | The Malta Independent
The Labour Party is still unsure on whether 16-year-olds will be granted the right to vote at the next general election, a statement issued by the National Youth Council (KNZ) said. The council asked all parties to say what their intentions are when the matter is brought to the vote. The Nationalist parliamentary group, as well as independent MP Giovanna Debono, informed the council that they shall be supporting the motion once it is tabled and a vote is a taken.
Evidently dealing with a sacred cow, Chief Electoral Commissioner Joseph Church believes that every step in the digital transformation of elections in Malta “is a journey that includes difficult, yet not impossible, tasks”. A firm believer in the opportunities offered by the new technology to “improve the electoral process”, Mr Church, however, rules out a big bang approach. “I am conscious that any development has to take place within a mature debate with political parties. The dialogue among all stakeholders, addressing concerns and ideas in an open and transparent process, will help avoid contentions on the digital transformation of elections in Malta.” One might question the need to change Malta’s accepted voting system, which has served the county well for many years. The main reason motivating other countries to embark on an IT transformation of their electoral systems is improving turnout. However, it is very difficult to improve the turnout at a Maltese general election, as the lowest since Independence was 93 per cent.
The Nationalist Party is taking a cautious approach when it comes to electronic voting following revelations last month that people who bought Maltese citizenship made it onto the electoral register without satisfying the minimum residency requirements. PN sources told the Times of Malta the party would only agree to use ID cards for voting, instead of the traditional voting document, if political parties were allowed to carry out audits on Identity Malta’s ID card processes. Last week this paper revealed that after reviewing the complaints filed by the PN, the Electoral Commission had conceded that 39 out of the 91 complaints were justified. The use of ID cards to vote would be the first step in a host of new technological measures in the local voting system.
The government calls it an individual investment programme intended to attract to Malta people with talent and money to invest. The more down to earth deem it a sale of Maltese/European passports and information tabled in Parliament indicates that is just what the IIP actually is: a sale. Over 80 per cent of the 143 successful applicants so far have signed five-year rent contracts rather than opting to buy a property in Malta. The implication is that they have no intention of settling here permanently, if at all. Chris Kalin, president of Henley & Partners, which runs the programme, was more succinct when he said that many of his clients were only interested in getting a Maltese passport rather than living here. In other words, they want a passport to Europe. The IIP scheme, which had not been included in the Labour Party electoral programme, was controversial from the start and amended several times along the way until a settlement was reached with the European Union.
Malta: Electoral Commissioner was ‘unaware’ of voting rights granted to IIP applicants | Malta Today
As the opposition is fighting the voting rights granted to some 91 IIP citizens, Chief Electoral Commissioner Joseph Church said that the Electoral Commission had been “unaware” of the constitutional breaches that took place until it was flagged by the PN. Contacted by MaltaToday, Church also confirmed that the commission has held an informal meeting with Identity Malta – the authority responsible from the processing of IIP applicants – to investigate the allegations being made. “The commission is currently carrying out a fact-finding exercise to determine what action to take,” Church added. Insisting that the investigation was still a work-in-progress, Church would not say what sort of action, if any, could be taken in the near future. “We are leaving all options open, The Commission will be meeting tomorrow to discuss further the issue.”
Malta: Passport buyers still given the right to vote despite red flags raised by Electoral Commission | The Malta Independent
Desk officers at the Electoral Commission sent e-mails to a number of IIP citizenship holders to inform them that they did not meet the necessary criteria, as laid out by Malta’s Constitution, to be placed on the Electoral Register. Despite this, these same individuals were still given a right to vote in Malta. In one particular e-mail exchange, an Electoral Commission desk officer sent an e-mail to an IIP citizenship holder about how according to her application, she did not meet the criteria to be able to vote. This e-mail was forwarded by the applicant to an IIP agent asking him/her to “sort this out.” The IIP agent then e-mailed the Electoral Commission (photo above) to halt the processing of the application. Again, despite the desk officer doing their job, the person was still placed on the Electoral Register.
Malta: New voting technology for MEP, council elections – Ballot papers to be scanned, not counted | Times of Malta
The days of “banging on the perspex” in the election counting hall could soon be a thing of the past under a plan to introduce vote counting software that will slash the wait for the result from days to hours. The technology is expected to be tested in the 2019 MEP and local council elections before it comes into use for all national polls. “Our voting system has needed a major overhaul for many years,” Chief Electoral Commissioner Joe Church told The Sunday Times of Malta. “There appears to be consensus from both major parties on the way forward. This will ultimately make our elections more efficient,” he added.
The bombardment of Facebook appeals for a Yes or No vote in the spring hunting referendum should in theory cease tomorrow as voters ‘reflect’ on the choice they face. The cessation of electoral activity 24 hours before voting day is not a custom but the law. However, it remains to be seen whether practicality will hinder the police from taking action against anybody who breaches the legal provisions on silent day, as it is known.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has said that there will not be any subsidized flights for early voters. The Prime Minister was responding to questions asked by PN Secretary General Chris Said in Parliament. The Prime Minister said that the dates for early voting coincide with the Easter break, and that such arrangements cannot be applies that early as they could have a negative impact on tourism during a time considered to be a ‘peak period’ for the industry. In his question, the PN Secretary General highlighted that such subsidized flights have always accommodated early voters, who would be unable to cast their vote on voting day.
European expats living in Malta can vote for the 2014 European Elections in Malta, by registering in the European Union Electoral Register, the closing date for registration is the 31st of March 2014. In order to be elegible to register and to vote you will need an ID card or residence document from the Citizenship & Expatriate Affairs Department in Valletta, in Gozo EU residents can apply at the office within the Ministry for Gozo. The Office is located on the left through the main green doors of the Consumer Affairs section in St Francis Square. An Application Form is then required to be registered in the European Union Electoral Register as a voter for the Election of Members of the European Parliament, this is available for download here. The European Commission has recently issued guidance to EU-Member States which have rules in place leading to a loss of voting rights for citizens in national elections, simply because they have exercised their right to free movement in the EU.
Representatives of the visual impaired in Malta have renewed their appeal to the government to amend electoral laws, and allow blind voters to have a person they trust assisting them while casting their vote. Currently, representatives from the Electoral Commission and the political parties assist the blind voters. “But we feel uncomfortable to vote by showing our voting preferences to four unknown persons that we have never met in our life. We deserve our privacy,” Frans Tirchett said on behalf of the visually impaired. He told Sunday newspaper Illum how they have been lobbying for legal amendments for years, but so far, its efforts, most recently a failed 2007 court case, were all in vain.
Malta: Bill to allow voting for 16-year olds in local elections approved in first reading | Gozo News
A bill to lower the voting age to 16 for the local council elections was approved on Wednesday evening following its first reading in the House of Representatives. It was presented by Parliamentary Secretary Jose’ Herrera and seconded by David Agius, the shadow minister for local councils. Dr Herrera commented “that this was a historic milestone and had been reached on the 20th anniversary of the founding of the councils.” Earlier in the evening discussion were held in the Tapestry Chamber where it was presided by the Speaker, Anglu Farrugia. Dr Herrera, Mr Agius, MP’s, mayors and young people (known as Ambassadors) representing the various councils, were present for the discussions. From there they moved to the Chamber of Parliament to follow the moving of the Bill for its First Reading.
A court this morning decided that the Attorney General should be a party in a case instituted by the Nationalist Party where it demanded a recount of the votes cast in the eighth and thirteen districts in the general election. Justice Jacqueline Padovani said the Attorney General should be a party in the case to safeguard state interests. The PN had argued that the Attorney General should not be involved while the Electoral Commission requested that the AG be called into the proceedings.