Election myth buster: true or false

Malta’s voting process is based on the single transferable vote system. It can be complicated, which allows for several myths to permeate. Kurt Sansone tries to deconstruct some of these myths

Myth: If I vote 1 for a candidate of party X and 2 for a candidate of a different party, my vote will be invalid.

False The beauty of our electoral system is that it allows you to transfer your vote between candidates of different political parties. So, you can vote for all the candidates on the ballot sheet irrespective of the party they are contesting with or whether they are independents. The important thing is to put down numbers in incremental order starting from 1 and continuing with the rest.

Myth: If I vote 1 and stop there, my vote is invalid.

False You can vote 1 and stop there. You can actually stop at what number you want.

Myth: I have to vote for all candidates of a political party.

False You can vote for one, some or all candidates of a political party, or none at all. Irrespective of what political parties say, you have no obligation to vote for all candidates of the same party.

Myth: I can vote by drawing an X in the box.

False You have to vote using numbers starting from 1. Any other mark could invalidate your vote.

Myth: If I vote using numbers but I also leave a written message for politicians, my vote will still be valid.

False If you put some other marking on the ballot sheet or write down a message of sorts, you will invalidate your vote.

Myth: If I vote for a small party or an independent candidate my vote will be wasted.

False A small party candidate or an independent candidate may not garner enough votes to get elected to parliament, which is why the larger parties tell you the vote is wasted. But any vote is a personal political choice and it is up to you to decide who you want to support. The number 1 vote is important to determine the strength of political parties at the first count and hence, which will win the election. But if more than two political parties are represented in parliament, the first count vote may be immaterial and what counts is the number of seats a political party gets. This is why transferring your vote between candidates becomes an important consideration.

Myth: The political parties will know how I voted or whether I invalidated my vote.

False You vote in a private polling booth and you fold your ballot before depositing it in a sealed ballot box. Unless you decide to tell people how you voted, nobody can know what your choice is, not even the political parties.

Myth: Political parties will know that I did not bother to vote.

TRUE Political parties have access to the data of who has voted on election day. So, they will know that you did not vote.

Myth: I can take a photo of my ballot to show people how I voted.

Don’t even bother going there. It is illegal to take a photo of the ballot and you can get arrested for it. This is done to prevent corrupt practices.

Myth: I do not know how to read and write, so I cannot vote.

False Anybody entitled to vote has a right to do so. If you cannot read and write, the assistant electoral commissioners in the polling room where you vote will help you. The room will be vacated and it will just be you and the assistant electoral commissioners. They will follow your verbal instructions. And don’t worry about your preference being recorded wrongly because apart from the representatives of the Electoral Commission there will also be representatives of the respective political parties, who will ensure that your choice is respected.

Myth: I can take a person of trust with me inside the polling booth to help me vote.

False Voting is a personal matter and the law does not allow you to take a person of trust with you inside the polling booth. If you need any help while voting, you can ask the assistant electoral commissioners.

Myth: Voting is obligatory.

False Malta has no law that makes voting obligatory. This does exist in some countries and people there can be fined if they fail to vote. But in Malta, voting is on a voluntary basis.

Myth: If not enough people vote, the election will be invalid.

False It is your democratic choice to decide not to vote but an election will always deliver an outcome, irrespective of the number of people who actually vote. The election result is based on the number of valid votes cast, irrespective of the turnout. Not voting may be a message in itself but it will also allow others to determine the outcome.

Myth: All I need to vote on Saturday is my ID Card.

False You need to have the voting document, which is issued by the Electoral Commission. This will have your photo and personal details on it. It will also tell you where you have to go to cast your vote. Without the voting document, you will not be allowed to vote. If you do not have it yet, you can pick this up from the counting hall in Naxxar or the Electoral Commission’s office in Rabat, Gozo. The last chance to collect the document is Thursday at midnight. You need your ID card to be able to collect your voting document.