2.2 percent voter registration forms sent to police have been rejected: DNR

Department of National Registration (DNR) Director Fareeda Yoosuf has stated that 11 out of the 500 voter re-registration forms sent to the police for verification have been rejected to date.

Meanwhile, police have announced they are able to verify fingerprints 25 times faster than they had previously stated.

“The DNR is just acting as an intermediary between the Elections Commission [EC]and the police. Once we receive forms from the EC, we forward it to the police who will carry out the verification process. Once we hear back from them, we deliver their results to the EC,” Fareeda explained.

“So far we have received 350 re-registration forms from the EC on Tuesday, and 150 forms on Wednesday. Having sent them to police promptly, we have heard from them that 11 of the forms have been rejected. We haven’t reviewed the report, nor asked for specifics, therefore we can’t say whether these forms have been rejected due to issues with the fingerprint, or some other issue,” she stated.

“As this is a matter related to the election, it is the EC that will decide on how to proceed with the matter. We have sent them the forms and the police report. It is their responsibility to follow it up and decide what to do about it,” Fareeda said.

Meanwhile, the police released a statement on Tuesday stating that they had completed the fingerprint verification process of 350 forms sent in by the DNR. The statement does not mention finding any irregularities in the forms.

Minivan News was unable to contact police media officials or the EC secretary general at the time of press.

Fingerprint verification

Although the Supreme Court ruling issued on September 13 orders the EC to verify fingerprints on re-registration forms through the DNR, Fareeda stated that the department does not possess the capacity or the resources to conduct the process.

The DNR therefore sends the forms they receive from the EC on to the police, who carry out the verification process.

While police routinely fingerprint those arrested and the DNR fingerprints those issued new ID cards, no institution in the Maldives has the capacity to verify fingerprints on the scale of a national presidential election.

The police initially said on October 14 that with the capacity they have, it would take them five minutes to verify a single fingerprint. As each re-registration form has fingerprints of four different people – the voter, the bearer who submits the form and two witnesses – each form would then take 20 minutes for verification.

However, on October 23 – 9 days after the initial statement – police announced that they have “increased capacity” to the level where they can verify five fingerprints in one minute, which amounts to 75 form verifications in an hour.

A statement on the police website quotes Assistant Commissioner of Police Hussain Adam as stating that the institution has increased capacity by deciding that, in addition to the automated verification system, police will also manually verify fingerprints.

He explained that manual verification meant that “fingerprint experts” will judge the legitimacy of a fingerprint by looking at it with the naked eye.

“There are certain things in every person’s fingerprint that need to be counted. This can be done by experts just by looking at it with the naked eye. We have decided to use this approach. It can be done,” he stated.

The Jumhooree coalition has maintained that they need at least five percent of the re-registration forms to have the fingerprints verified, while the Progressive Party of Maldives continues to demand that ten percent be verified.


Deceased people in voter database result of difficulties obtaining information: Department of National Registration

The Maldives’ Department of National Registration (DNR) has said there is a possibility names of deceased people could be included in the electoral register as it “faces difficulties in obtaining information” to maintain a more current database.

Following the Supreme Court’s annulment of the first round of presidential elections, the EC had been given less than 12 days to prepare for the repeat poll – scheduled to take place this Saturday (October 19).

The commission has said it normally requires 45-60 days of preparation to hold a presidential election in accordance with the Maldives’ constitution and general elections law.

The Supreme Court’s verdict delineated 16 guidelines the EC must follow in holding a new round of polling before October 20, including using the DNR’s database as the “main source to determine eligible voters”.

Today the DNR admitted it had “faced difficulties in obtaining information on people who have passed away abroad”.

“We have removed the names of deceased people from our database whose information hasbeen shared. But we cannot remove a person from the database if we can’t officially confirm their deaths,” DNR Director Fareeda Yoosuf told Haveeru.

For the annulled first round as well as past elections, the EC compiled its voter registry by collecting current data from island council and city council offices, which was cross checked with the DNR database, and then updated after the commission publicly published the list and provided voters with an opportunity to amend any incorrect information.

“It has been very hard work over the last five years to come up with a voter registry of this standard,” Elections Commission Chairperson Fuwad Thowfeek explained to Minivan News in a previous interview.

Meanwhile, the EC emphasised today that it has not made any changes to the information obtained from the DNR database when compiling the voter register for the presidential election scheduled for Saturday, in accordance with the Supreme Court’s order.

The commission will forward all complaints regarding the voter registry to the DNR, local media reported.

Complaints submitted thus far have primarily focused on the delayed re-registration process, according to local media. Other recurring issues are due to individuals being registered to vote under incorrect addresses or in the wrong location altogether.

The commission accepted complaints submissions until 6pm today. Additionally, as of this afternoon, the EC had processed over 52,000 – of the estimated 65,000 – re-registration forms for individuals voting outside of their permanent residences.

The entire re-registration process, including the complaints procedure, was delayed after supporters of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and Maldivian Development Alliance (MDA) “threatened officials, incited discord, and obstructed EC officials’ ability to work” at the voter registration department.

The commission notified the government that the Maldives Police Service (MPS) failed to remove the protesters from the registration section’s premises for five hours “despite repeated efforts and requests for police assistance”.

A midnight ruling from the Supreme Court on October 10 ordered the commission to disregard re-registration efforts for the annulled presidential elections, and restart the entire process with fingerprinted forms for all voters who wish to vote in a location other than their permanent address.


Over 10,000 voters re-register as EC continues runoff preparations

The Elections Commission (EC) has received over 10,000 voter re-registration forms as its preparations for the second round of the presidential election continue amid controversy catalyzed by the Jumhooree coalition’s refusal to accept the first round results.

The coalition’s allegations of vote rigging have resulted in ongoing cases in the Supreme Court and High Court. Earlier this week, police barricaded the EC secretariat in response to these claims, searching its trash unsuccessfully for evidence of voter registry fraud.

The media has continued to disseminate unsubstantiated information about the commission, and threats have been directed at the EC’s chair, his family, and the vice chair, as well as EC official Ibrahim ‘Ogaru’ Waheed in the week-and-a-half since the presidential election’s first round.

The Jumhooree Party’s allegations that the EC rigged the first round vote include claims that an inaccurate voter registry and fake identity cards allowed individuals to vote more than once, or to cast ballots in the names of deceased people. The party has also alleged that the ballot counting process lacked transparency.

The EC has subsequently raised concerns that there may not be a suitable environment for the presidential election’s second round should Villa TV (VTV) – owned by JP leader Gasim Ibrahim – continue to deliberately spread false information and incite people to rise up against the commission.

Parliament’s National Security Committee and the Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) are currently conducting separate investigations into the matter.

Despite these challenges, the EC is continuing to prepare for the second round runoff – scheduled for September 28 – and has emphatically dismissed allegations of vote rigging as “baseless and unfounded”. The EC has highlighted its transparency, its ongoing complaints investigations, and the praise from a broad spectrum of election observers who noted peaceful voting and the preparedness of the EC.

“With [election] officials from different sources [working] in front of [election] observers, there was no way the type of fraud [the JP is alleging] could be made,” EC Chair Fuwad Thowfeek recently told Minivan News.

“We have been strictly following the rules, regulations, laws, and constitution, so I don’t think there is room for anything to stop the second round voting,” he said.

“We are printing the ballot papers, conducting refresher training sessions for officials, prepping all the logistics, including travel plans, etc.,” he noted.

Over 10,000 re-register

Individuals registered to vote in one location had a four day re-registration opportunity – ending on Sunday (September 15) – to change that location according to their needs for the September 28 run-off.

The EC yesterday revealed that its secretariat in Male’ had received 10,000 re-registration forms and has sent replies to each individual. The commission is also currently processing re-registration forms forwarded from island councils in the atolls.

“The exact number of people who re-registered will only be known after the registration process is completed. About 10,000 forms were submitted for Male’ alone,” said EC Registration Department Head Aminath Majdha. “The exact number will be known when we know the number of forms submitted to the councils from the atolls.”

The re-registration forms that the commission has received thus far include new voters who did not participate in the first round polling, such as individuals who recently turned 18, as well as Maldivians who will be in Saudi Arabia performing the Hajj pilgrimage, Majdha explained.

The number of Maldivians now registered to vote in Saudi Arabia requires a ballot box to be stationed in the country, she added.

For the presidential election’s first round the EC stationed 470 ballot boxes on local islands, resorts, and diplomatic missions in Singapore, London, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka, as well as Trivandrum and New Delhi in order to accommodate 239,593 eligible voters.

Voting with forged ID’s not possible: DNR

Meanwhile, the Department of National Registration (DNR) has dismissed the possibility of individuals voting with forged national identity cards.

DNR Director General Fareeda Yoosuf has insisted there was no chance forged ID’s could be used to vote.

Each individual identity card is unique and does not change even when renewed and, even in cases where lost IDs are replaced, the same identity number is used, Yoosuf noted.

“The card number will remain the same for each individual no matter how many times the card is renewed,” she explained. “We haven’t issued identity cards with two different numbers to the same person, so I’m certain that can’t be done.”

“When each person has a unique number and is allowed to vote based on that number, there is no chance a person can vote more than once by using different ID numbers,” she continued.

No complaints of forged identity cards have been received by the DNR so far, she noted.

Earlier this week, the EC also announced that eight deceased individuals the JP had claimed to be on the electoral register had been found to be living.

The commission has determined that the eight people did cast ballots and has met five of them, EC Vice Chair Ahmed Fayaz told local media. The commission has received information that the other three individuals are also alive, though the EC has not yet been able to meet them.

Recount impossible

During last week’s National Advisory Committee meeting – where the JP, the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), and incumbent President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s representatives called for a recount of ballot boxes from the first round – the EC noted that the alleged voter discrepancy was not enough to call for a recount of all 470 ballot boxes.

The law states there are two instances where ballot boxes may be recounted: 1) If the EC decides the voting process was compromised and decides to conduct a recount to address a complaint(s); 2) If there is a court order issued for a recount, EC Vice Chair Fayaz explained recently.

However, the EC also emphasised that all the commission’s members were willing to conduct a recount of any ballot box where credible evidence of fraud is presented.

It would be impossible to conduct a recount prior to the second round, given that the time consuming task would require about two months to complete, EC Chair Thowfeek explained to Haveeru yesterday (September 16).

“That is something that simply cannot be done, it will take a long time to recount the votes,” said Thowfeek. “It takes around 12 hours to count four or five ballot boxes.”

Requesting a recount without any legal basis – only to remove personal doubts – is not sanctioned by the constitution or the elections law, he continued.

“The ballots had been counted in the presence of monitors, observers and representatives, so even if there is a recount, the results won’t change,” he noted. “Moreover, a vote recount is not something the people will welcome either.”

However, the PPM has alleged Thowfeek “changed his tune” about the time necessary to conduct a recount, claiming he told the National Advisory Committee the process would take about four days.