Polling in the Bougainville Referendum continues smoothly with 223 of 224 polling places opening today across Bougainville and Papua New Guinea.
Two days of polling are now complete in Gizo, Solomon Islands, and Cairns, Australia, as the teams make their way today to Honiara and Brisbane respectively for polling on Thursday and Friday.
Chief Referendum Officer Mauricio Claudio said reports from all areas continue to be of polling taking place in a peaceful and joyous atmosphere – with voters freely casting their votes.
“We’re delighted that people are taking ownership of the referendum and coming out to vote, and that this complex electoral operation across three countries continues to be a positive contribution to the overall peace process,” Mr Claudio said.
“We had estimated 300-400 voters to be processed each day at each polling station, but many are operating much faster than this. However, we have moved an additional team today to Bel Isi park, Arawa and Buin regional centres to help process the high voter demand.”
This morning, the team for Carterets and Nuguria, delayed by bad weather, arrived to commence polling, and teams in Nissan and Mortlock/Tasman remain on schedule.
“We’ve had a few hiccups in the use of provisional voting, and this can be expected when introducing a new and inclusive voting practice to Papua New Guinea.”
“The Returning Officer yesterday directed all Presiding Officers to allow provisional voting where a voter is not on the roll, but has declared two things: that they have not already voted in the referendum, and that they enrolled on the referendum roll.”
“Only in these two circumstances can someone be issued a provisional ballot. Provisional voting is not a way to enrol at the polling place if you did not get yourself enrolled during the three phases and many months of enrolment provided this year.”
All provisional ballots will be checked at the Count Centre against the full referendum roll and if not found, against the preliminary roll before being admitted to the count. If the name is not found on either of these rolls it will not be counted.
“BRC has instituted many checks and balances across the entire referendum process to ensure those who legally enrolled can cast their vote in this referendum.”
The Chief Referendum Officer assured voters that the BRC had more than enough ballot papers for all three forms of voting.
“Provisional, postal and normal voters are all issued with the same ballot paper to mark their choice. Reports that we have only 1,500 provisional ballot papers is simply not true. We have printed 300,000 ballot papers – we have enough.”
Mr Claudio reminded voters to tell polling officials the correct name and spelling they enrolled under.
“We know that in Bougainville,many people have multiple names and different spelling of names. This can cause confusion at the roll check so we ask all voters to be mindful of this at the polling place.”