Ballot-Mixing Style Protested

The National Election Com­mittee confirmed Monday that the ballots from as few as three polling stations would be mixed before counting after the July 26 elections, a fact that some say weakens the secrecy of the polls. 

The NEC decided not to mix all ballots in a commune to­gether because they could not find bags large enough to hold them all, said Im Suorsdei, secretary-general of the NEC.

But election observers said Mon­day that mixing only three boxes could allow local authorities to figure out how certain polling stations voted.

“It’s not OK,” said Lao Mong Hay, president of the Khmer Institute of Democracy. “It cannot ensure complete secrecy of the vote.”

“All the polling stations at the commune level should be mixed together,” echoed Thun Saray, spokesman for the Committee for Free and Fair Elections.

The National Assembly am­ended the electoral law last month to move ballot-counting from polling stations to commune centers. The amendment was a compromise between the government and opposition parties who wanted the ballots counted in provincial capitals, as in the 1993 elections.

But the amendment did not stipulate that ballots from all polling stations be mixed. The NEC subsequently determined that “at least three” polling stations be mixed.

Im Suorsdei said the critics did not understand the technical problems. “In some Kompong Cham communes there are 35 polling stations. How can we find such a big bag?” he said.

He said the officials, after reconciling the number of ballots in a box with the number of ballot stubs, will mix three polling stations from different areas.

Communes will each have an average of eight to 10 polling stations.

But an international elections observer said that mixing only three polling stations “absolutely defeats the purpose of amending the law and it is going to allow continued threats to the idea of a secret ballot.”

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