Updated 3.20pm with video clip
A blind woman who wanted to vote for Democratic Party leader Godfrey Farrugia was told there was no “Dr Farrugia” on the ballot, the PD has alleged in a complaint filed with the electoral commission.
Dr Farrugia, who is running to become a Member of the European Parliament, also expressed concern that electoral officials at a polling station in Żebbuġ were striking off cancelled votes using a pencil, rather than pen or permanent marker.
The electoral commission promptly responded to the PD leader's two complaints, explaining its rules and procedures, though that reply did not satisfy Dr Farrugia.
Local voters are casting their ballots to elect six new MEPs as well as councillors for 68 local councils across Malta and Gozo on Saturday.
In a written complaint sent to electoral commissioner Joseph Church and seen by Times of Malta, the PD leader said that he had seen officials at the polling station writing ‘cancelled’ in pencil rather than pen on ballot papers which voters had returned for a replacement.
“I immediately objected and asked why they weren’t using the biro or permanent marker they had,” Dr Farrugia wrote. “They told me ‘the Commission gave us a pencil’. I asked them to write ‘cancelled’ in a way that could not be erased, and they did so for each cancelled vote they had until 9.30am”.
Electoral Commission responds
An electoral commission official told Times of Malta that officials at polling stations were issued with the same types of pencils used by voters in voting booths.
“This is not the sort of pencil that can easily be erased,” they said.
“When a voter asks for a replacement ballot sheet, officials take the discarded sheet, place it face down and write ‘cancelled’ on it using these pencils,” he said.
Dr Farrugia’s official complaint also highlighted a second incident, which he said happened minutes earlier, and which also made him uneasy.
The PD leader said that as he was walking in to the voting room, a woman accompanying a visually impaired senior citizen had stopped him and alleged that her elderly relative had been misled.
“She asked to vote for Dr Farrugia and was told by the officials that there was no Dr Farrugia on the ballot sheet,” the PD leader said.
“They then told her ‘who do you want to vote for from the big parties?’ She left confused and upset, and happened to bump into me.”
'Specific wording' - commission
An electoral commission official told Times of Malta that officials at polling stations had specific instructions for how to handle cases when voters needed help to vote.
“Officials ask voters in such cases a very specific question – ‘which candidate do you most want to be elected?’ [Liema kandidat tixtieq li l-aktar ikun elett?]” he said.
“We have nevertheless sent instructions to officials at the polling station in question, reminding them of these instructions,” he added.
The electoral commission assurances did not sway Dr Farrugia.
"I am not satisfied with the Commission’s reply," he told Times of Malta.
"No shadow of doubt should ever be left in an electoral process."
He had met another elderly voter in Żebbuġ who had also been misled by electoral officials, he said.
"They also told her that I wasn't on the ballot sheet," he said.
Voting for European Parliament and local council elections runs throughout Saturday, with polling stations shutting at 10pm.
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