Ballot Paper Conundrum
Oh, what a big size of ballot papers! This was perhaps the reaction of anyone who reached the polling booths to cast their votes on Sunday. Confusion at the ballot box dampened their spirit to cast their votes smoothly and happily as they were picking their local leaders in almost two decades. But the large ballot papers with poll symbols printed on narrow space bewildered them. They worried whether their votes would be invalid.
This scribe was not exception, too. I strolled towards the polling booths set up close to my residence in the afternoon. As this scribe was to check his name on the voters’ list, sudden showers brought the voting process to a halt for half-an-hour. The voting was underway under the tent, but the employees and security forces were afraid that ballot papers and boxes might be wet as tents were not fully protecting the necessary documents, staff and voters from the rains. My feeling of euphoria also receded for some time as I was hurried to go to office after casting my vote. I realised I would have come to cast my votes in the morning.
But edgy moment did not end even after taking the ballot paper. My accompanying spouse asked me to find out the symbols on which she wanted to put the stamp. She had not earlier gone through the model ballot papers. But the deputed employees were hesitant to allowing me to help her. Finally, they permitted me to scour the poll symbols. I was not smart either. As I moved to affix stamp on the ballot paper, I also took time more than required. I got confused while putting stamp on the double symbols printed on the top of left. Many were ignorant of why there are two symbols that signify two open category ward members.
After stamping the ballot papers, voters faced another glitch. They had to fold it several times before dropping them into the boxes. The ballot paper was of the size of a broadsheet daily. Some people commented that it was like a poster of a movie. The interesting part was that the ballot paper used in Kathmandu district contained 476 symbols. The space for symbol was very narrow with a risk of touching nearby boxes of symbols while putting the stamps on the chosen symbols.
The ballot papers were not just big and clumsy. My one friend, who has contested for the post of ward member under the independent category, complained that the symbols of independent candidates were dim compared to that of the political parties. “Did you mark our symbols?” he asked me. Actually, I had not minutely gone through them. He said that the symbols of major parties were clear, brighter and visible but this was not the case with the symbols of independent contestants. His implication was that the Election Commission rigged them on the ballot papers. I found his concern genuine and decided to convey his complaints to the EC through this writing.