“Following voting in Goroka last Thursday, I saw posts on social media suggesting the vote was marred by fighting over ballot papers, wide-scale vote rigging and violence. One candidate claimed that the security, and in particular the use of security cameras, was a ‘flop’.
“However, the views expressed by the Electoral Commission and police personnel who conducted the election were different. They said that, where new measures were properly implemented, voting was a success. While there were a few incidents, primarily at stations without proper monitoring, they were far fewer than normally seen in Goroka.
“Overall, the election occurred without any major issues.”
On Friday (Sept 25th) after the polling, Kramer met with Electoral Commission officials and the Provincial Police Commander (PPC) to get a firsthand account of the issues faced during polling. The officials and PPC provided general observations as well as details of issues faced at each polling location, based on reports they received from the presiding officers and their own experiences.
“It’s important to note that there were some 155 polling teams spread across 77 polling locations. Given the deep-rooted issues and history of conflict during elections in the Highlands region, it would be extremely naïve to expect the introduction of cameras to eliminate problems at each and every polling location,” stated Kramer.
“The cameras were handed out to police personnel on the morning of polling. The majority of them did what they were tasked to do; they set up the cameras and monitored the polling. But some police personnel did not. In each of these cases, we are now determining whether this was due to ignorance, difficulty understanding the technology, plain laziness or other reasons.
“I did see one or two pictures of illegal voting posted on social media. Perhaps these were staged for the cameras? We knew we could not stop all illegal voting overnight. Our aim was always to stop the widespread fraud and violence seen so often during Highlands elections. And we did.”
Kramer said the Organic Law on elections provides remedies to address illegal practices during polling. A scrutineer may object to any ballot box being counted on the grounds of illegal marking of a ballot paper.
This is done by providing details in writing and any evidence to support the claims (video, photographs and eyewitness accounts).
The Electoral Commission is required by law to accept and make a determination on any disputed ballot box.
“We know certain individuals and/or supporters of candidates went to the trouble of hijacking the conduct of polling at certain polling locations. We now have several of these incidents on tape.
“All ballot boxes are now at the Goroka Police Station where they may be disputed and any determinations made as to whether or not they should be counted.
“The 2020 Goroka By-election has provided invaluable insights into the many issues that trouble our elections. They will help the Marape-Steven Government ensure they are addressed in the lead-up to the 2022 General Elections.”
(Pictures from 'Kramer Report')