NEC to test out stamp for election

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
An official counts ballots in Phnom Penh’s Boeung Prolit commune during the 2018 Cambodian general election. Heng Chivoan

The National Election Committee (NEC) is planning to hold a mock election in the first quarter of this year to test out the possible use of a round stamp with a check mark in place of pens as the primary means voters will use to mark their ballots.

The NEC wants to test out the stamps to measure their efficiency and identify any potential problems before deciding whether to make wider use of them in the 2022 commune elections.

NEC deputy secretary-general Som Sorida told The Post on January 4 that for the upcoming year the NEC had two main tasks to complete.

One of the tasks is the administration of the list of eligible voters. The other is the mock election that will test the use of the stamps and refine the efficiency of the election process in Cambodia and to ensure important aspects such as checking and verifying the results of elections via computer are operating as intended.

He explained that the mock election using the stamps will begin in March or April and run for 30 days.

Sorida explained that in the past there had been some problems people have encountered when using pens to mark their ballots and that this had resulted in some ballots being invalidated. He hopes the introduction of the stamp will eliminate these errors so that every Cambodian’s vote is counted.

“The mock election is going to take place in the capital and provinces. One commune from each province and the capital will be chosen, and then in each commune, we’ll open two polling places near the town centre or thereabouts. Five hundred voters will be asked to participate per polling place,” Sorida said.

“The NEC will [ask] for assistance and support from our partner countries to pay for this event [but if we don’t have funding] within two months from them, then the NEC will request state funds,” he said.

Ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) spokesman Sok Eysan pointed out that Cambodia had been organising elections successfully.

He said the NEC had a lot of experience designing election procedures to make it easier for people to vote so it will not be difficult for them.

The idea to use a stamp to mark ballots originated with the NEC, and the CPP had no part in the decision, he said, adding that the CPP had nothing to worry about.

“During past elections, people have marked ballots in a disorderly manner. Sometimes, they wrote a number down or they had marks both outside and inside the circles, and any improperly marked ballot is invalid – it won’t be counted.

“Hence it might be a lot easier if we use stamps,” he said.

Sam Sokuntheamy, executive director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, told The Post that using a stamp instead of pens was not uncommon and that some countries were already using this method.

“A stamp can only make one kind of mark, so nothing much can go wrong if you use one. But there are many different kinds of pens and they can damage the ballots. Also, people are more likely to make errors with them, such as overfilling circles. The stamp is more reliable, once it’s stamped there, it will stay there,” he said.

Cambodian Youth Party (CYP) president Pich Sros said his party did not support using stamps to mark ballots because such a system will be more vulnerable to election fraud.

“If we use a stamp instead of a pen then one person could cast many ballots and no one would be able to tell because the stamp makes it normal for them to all look the same.

“Also, symbolically, to [‘rubber’] stamp something means to give approval without any thought, but we use pens to express our individuality and pass on knowledge, so for our party, we prefer sticking with pens,” he explained.