Vote counting process: Malawi vs UK

We continue learning from UK and Malawi in light of the Brexit referendum held on June 23, 2016.  About 32 million people voted in the Brexit representing a turnout of 72 percent, which is the highest since 1992.

Unlike in Malawi, in the UK votes are counted at a counting area, which mostly is a local authority. This means that after 10pm when the polling stations closed, poll staff sealed the ballot boxes and carried them to the counting stations. In case of the famous June EU Referendum there were 382 counting areas across the United Kingdom..

At the counting stations the ballot boxes are examined if they have not been tampered with then opened and counted.

In Malawi, the procedure is different. No ballot box moves from the polling station, where polling took place, without being counted. This is to avoid allegations of ballot box stuffing during transit.

At the close of polling, the presiding officer seals the ballot boxes and moves them into a room, which has already been cleared of other materials, for counting. Each poling stream counts its own votes, the ballot papers are not mixed.

In the presence of candidate and party monitors, the poll staff start with reconciliation of unused and soiled ballot papers. After reconciling, the presiding officer puts the unused ballot papers into an envelope and seals it.

Then the presiding officer opens the ballot box in the presence of monitors and observers. The counting process involves picking out of the ballot box one paper at a time and displaying it to all present while announcing aloud the classification of the vote; either the name of the candidate voted for or as null and void. After the classification is done the votes for each candidate are counted then recorded.

After counting the presiding officer prepares a record of the results showing total number of votes cast, null and void votes and votes for each candidate. MEC has introduced a new security mechanism that the number of votes is not only recorded in figures but also written in words. This acts as a double check system to deter any attempt to fiddle with the figures.

When the summary results sheet is prepared, each monitor is given a copy and another one is pasted at the polling station at a place where the public can see. The presiding officer puts the ballot papers back into the ballot box and seals it. Monitors are free to take down the seal numbers. The original results sheet, signed by all representatives, is put in a tamper evident envelope with a unique ID number and sealed. Then the presiding officer takes the ballot box together with the results sheet to the Constituency Returning Officer, who is usually placed at the council office. Here enveloped is opened in presence of monitors and observers again. The results are tallied with those from other centres in the constituency and also transmitted to the main tally centre in Blantyre.

So come 2019, remember that votes for all the three elections; presidential, parliamentary and local council, are counted at the centre where voting took place. They are not moved to the counting centre like in the United Kingdom.