Author: BERNARD LUGONGO
AfricaPress-Tanzania: WITH thirteen days remaining before Tanzanians go to polls, the National Electoral Commission (NEC) has introduced ballot papers, including tactile ballot paper for visually-impaired voters.
The NEC presented the ballot paper samples to all political parties participating in the October 28th General Elections.
The electoral body also handed over to the parties, soft copy of the voter register, while warning voters against attempting cheatings during the highly-awaited polls.
Tanzanians will go to polls to vote for the president, parliamentarians and councillors in the sixth General Election under the multiparty system, which has attracted 15 presidential candidates, including incumbent President Dr John Magufuli.
Presentation of the ballot paper samples and the permanent voter register as well as a list of polling centres countrywide, was part of preparations as continuation of spreading voter education ahead of the polls.
The NEC Director of Election, Dr Wilson Charles, warned that voters should not engage in cheatings during the voting day by either trying to use a fake voter identification card or using an identity card belonging to another person.
“If a voter goes with an identity card that is not his or hers will be simply identified and will face consequences, the permanent voter register will be available in each polling centre,” Dr Charles stated in Dar es Salaam.
The commission issued a sample of the ballot paper, including Braille-enabled ballot paper for visually impaired voters, for the political parties participating in this year’s elections to educate voters on how to vote.
“We have given the sample of ballot paper so that you (political parties) could use it to educate voters, so that we don’t get spoilt votes,” he stated.
The samples of ballot papers were for positions of the president and vice-president as well as legislators.
Dr Charles, meanwhile, reiterated his call upon candidates to abide by election regulations, by avoiding seditious statements and insults; instead, they should stick on selling their election manifestos.
“We emphasize that during these remaining few days towards the polling day, candidates have to market their policies and we assure that elections would be free and fair,” he assured.
Some representatives of the political parties, who spoke to the ‘Daily News’ after receiving samples of the ballot papers, commended NEC for the good arrangements ahead of the much-anticipated polls.
Secretary General of the National League for Democracy (NLD), Mr Tozy Matwanga, said his party was satisfied with the way the NEC has put in place procedures, especially for blind people.
Mr Joachim Mwakitiga, Director of Election for the CCK party, also echoed the appreciation. On their part, representatives of the visually-impaired people at the meeting unanimously welcomed the move, saying that it would ensure that they vote freely and secretly.
In the past, visually-impaired voters were forced to seek assistance from people at polling centres, who sometimes misled them to vote for candidates who were not of their choice.
Chairman of a team that prepared the tactile ballot paper, Mr Jonas Lubago explained that tactile ballot paper will be of great help because a blind voter when arriving at a voting centre will be given the ballot paper and could read each candidate and the political party written in braille.
“This time the blind people have no reason not to vote because the process has been simplified,” Mr Lubago insisted.
However, he stated that for the blind people who could not read the tactile ballot paper, they should go to the polling stations with their companions whom they trust to avoid being misled.
Mr Gidion Mandesi, a member of the team, said they plan to tour different regions to educate visually- impaired voters how to use the tactile ballot paper to vote.