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‘Fault In System’ Behind Malta’s Electronic Voting Error As Early Turnout Figures Double Within Hours

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A ‘fault in the system’ was behind the inconsistencies in the early voting turnout figures that were published last weekend.

The number of voters published by the Department of Information had almost doubled in two separate press releases sent, jumping up from roughly 7,000 voters at 2pm to 14,000 by 10pm. The mistake was a cause for concern given that electronic voting will be used for the first time in two separate Maltese elections (MEP and Local Council) this weekend.

Speaking to The Malta Independent, Electoral Commissioner Joseph Church said that the figures sent out at 2pm were “perfect”.

“I couldn’t retract as it was 1am – it was not my intention to publish something like this because I would normally try to refrain from doing so,” he said.

While noting that the mistake was unintentional and that it was monitoring the electoral process, the Nationalist Party told the same newsroom that it was worried over the Commission’s stretched resources.

“The Nationalist Party is aware that notwithstanding the decision taken by Government to hold two national elections together the Electoral Commission resources were still limited and lack the necessary human resources among others.”

Church did back the resources he has at his disposal, saying that the Commission has “worked with these seasoned people before, so we don’t have any deficiencies from that aspect.”

Malta’s introduction of an electronic voting system has not gone by without a hitch. In its first test in November, around 40% of all ballot sheets were not recognised by the system and had to be passed on to a human counter.

After the number was reduced by half in its second test the following December, issues were flagged after it was revealed that the company responsible for operating the system had made changes to the system without informing the Electoral Commission or the delegates of the political parties.

This year, the projections for a majority vote is expected at around 8am on Sunday, an hour after the manual vote checking begins.

The parties will have a maximum of four hours in which to file complaints. The Electoral Commission cannot issue the official result before 11pm on Sunday, which is a deadline imposed by the European Union.

The most recent reports show that 43,000 MEP voting documents had not been collected.

READ NEXT: As Malta Gets Ready To Vote, Here’s A Ranking Of The 8 Most Provocative Billboards Of The Campaign

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