Statement on Voter Registration Issues for the Presidential Election 2019

The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) is concerned by widespread reports of Sri Lankan voters not receiving polling cards to vote in the upcoming presidential elections, and not finding their names on the 2018 electoral register after consulting their Grama Niladharis, or on the online electoral register. CMEV has to date received over 100 individual complaints from voters in this regard.

CMEV raised this issue with the Election Commission last week, but is yet to receive a response. Voter concern about this issue is growing across social media channels. Messages providing different and contradictory instructions to voters on how to verify their voter registration, and how to approach Grama Niladharis if they find themselves not on the register, are being shared widely.

CMEV is particularly concerned of possible confusion and potential disruptive incidents at polling centres on election day if/when voters find out that they are unable to vote due to their names not being on the electoral register as they expected.

CMEV requests the Electoral Commission to clarify the situation immediately, and to provide clear instructions to voters if they have not received polling cards and/or find out they are not on the electoral register.

CMEV also requests the Election Commission provide details about what instruction has been provided to election officials to resolve electoral registration issues on election day.

CMEV advises voters in Sri Lanka to check their electoral registration details on the Election Commission’s electoral register website (at https://eservices.elections.gov.lk/myVoterRegistration.aspx), particularly if they have not received a polling card.

If, after submitting their details, voters find their names on the electoral register, CMEV advises:

  1. To take a screenshot with them to their polling centre on. election day, and
  2. To carefully confirm where their polling centre is
  3. A polling card is not mandatory in order to vote – a valid form of ID is all that is required, if one is registered.

If, after submitting their details, voters find out that their names are not on the electoral register, CMEV advises:

The national Election Secretariat is located at Sarana Mawatha, Rajagiriya, Colombo and can be contacted at 011 2868441 or 011 2868442.

CMEV argues all voters behave in a calm and lawful manner and to not act in any way to threaten the conduct of a peaceful election. CMEV is asking the Election Commission to make a statement clarifying this issue in the hope of ensuring this outcome.

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ARBITRARY AND ILLEGAL TAMPERING WITH REGISTERED VOTER LISTS 2019

Letter to Election Commission

Dear Commission,

ARBITRARY AND ILLEGAL TAMPERING WITH REGISTERED VOTER LISTS 2019

It has been brought to our notice, by reliable persons who have been unfairly penalized, that certain Grama Niladharis, especially in the Colombo District, have arbitrarily removed the names of long-standing residents from their respective voter lists. Since these householders have duly completed the voter registration forms for 2018 accurately and in time, and since they have been on the voter lists at the same residential address for many years and have voted in all of the elections during the past decade and more, they were shocked and dismayed to learn that their names had been deleted from the relevant registered voter list for the residence they have occupied uninterrupted for many years. On inquiry they were informed that there is nothing that can be done at this stage, even though they were not provided with any reasons for the deletion of their names. This unacceptable situation is further exacerbated by the fact that the online voter list on your official website is not currently functioning.

Individual voters have lodged complaints with the Elections Commission, and we request you to make a formal public response to the allegations that they have made. Specifically, it is incumbent on you to publicly clarify the following in order to mitigate the lack of credibility in the system that this has generated, especially among older voters who are unable to visit the Elections Secretariat to verify if their names are still on the list:

  1. Provide an explanation for the exclusion of these names from the relevant voter lists, and make sure that there is a redress mechanism that will permit them to vote on the 16th.
  2. Explain the due process by which errant Grama Niladharis are to be held accountable for these deliberate omissions.
  3. Ensure that the online voter registration list is operational with immediate effect

Given the urgency of the situation and the need for immediate redress to ensure that the affected persons are not deprived of their franchise, we urge you to inform the general public as well by way of extensive publicity in all the appropriate channels.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Co-Conveners CMEV

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Presidential Election 2019 -MEDIA COMMUNIQUE 25th October 2019

Presidential Election 2019 Media Communiqué, 25th October 2019

Colombo, Sri Lanka

During the 36 days which have elapsed since the announcement of the presidential election of Sri Lanka, CMEV has recorded 464 verified incidents of election law violations. The highest number of incidents have been reported from Western and Southern provinces. Among those complaints 198 incidents were reported against New Democratic Front (NDF) and 186 incidents against the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). It is critical to observe that around 16 incidents of violence including assault and threats have been reported thus far.

The following are some of the trends that have been observed over the last seven days in relation to the pre-election period:

Governors of several provinces have been involved in presidential election campaigns in support of candidates while misusing state resources for campaigning

Provincial governors have been involved in campaigning promoting presidential candidates while serving as the representatives of President and chairing Provincial Public Service Commission. A.J.M Musammil, Peshala Jayarathna and Hemal Gunasekara, serving as the governors of Western, North Western and Southern Provinces respectively, are misusing resources belonging to their respective Provincial Councils to promote the SLPP candidate.

Incidents relating to threats and assaults

Particular attention should be given to the critical situation where numerous politicians have threatened and used verbal abuse against supporters of opposition parties. This has occurred especially at the regional level.

Usage of social media during the pre- election period.

It is difficult to ignore the fact that the authorities of Facebook have not been proactive in promptly responding to the measures taken by the Election Commission in curbing the spread of hate speech and disinformation. This is in spite of social media networks such as Facebook playing a critical role in disseminating information pertaining to elections. CMEV has closely observed the negative direction towards which the contributions of social media networks such as Facebook is headed. This is despite their potential to be immensely instrumental in the progress of the electoral process of Sri Lanka. CMEV believes that a broader social discourse must be created around Facebook’s reliance on the community standards set out by their own institution. Facebook’s inconsistencies in applying the standards and failure to deal with the language complexities in Sri Lanka is greatly exacerbating the spread of hate speech and misinformation during the election. This is crucial particularly in because Sri Lanka is moving towards a period where several elections are to be held within a close period.

Accordingly, CMEV is in the process of compiling a comprehensive report on the role that has been adopted by social media institutions in light of the upcoming presidential election. This report will be published by the end of the presidential election.

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