There have been instances where votes of family members have been split between two NA constituencies

A man retrives his balloting paper, after he put it in the wrong balloting box, after casting his vote during the general election in Karachi, Pakistan February 8, 2024. — Reuters
A man retrives his balloting paper, after he put it in the wrong balloting box, after casting his vote during the general election in Karachi, Pakistan February 8, 2024. — Reuters 
  • Votes of family members split between two NA constituencies. 
  • Netizen blames ECP for scattering families’ votes to far-flung areas.
  • ECP spokesperson says voting lists were updated afresh.

LAHORE: As voters head to polling stations to elect their preferred candidates in the general elections of 2024, the sudden transfer of votes from home constituencies has sparked confusion and left many people bewildered upon discovering that their votes have been enrolled at distant polling stations.

According to the Election Act of 2017, eligible voters can only register their votes in the constituency where their permanent or current address is located, as per their national identity card. An exception to this rule is granted to government employees, who are allowed to enrol themselves and their family members in the constituency where they are posted.

To the dismay of many voters, there have been instances where the votes of family members have been split between two National Assembly constituencies, potentially causing significant inconvenience in exercising their democratic rights smoothly.

According to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) website, a voter can apply along with a copy of their CNIC to the officer concerned of the district where they wish to enrol their name, using the prescribed form for enrolment or transfer of vote. However, it appears that the premier election regulator has failed to adhere to Article 27 and Article 37 of the Election Act of 2017 by haphazardly transferring enrollments to different constituencies.

Social media platforms have been flooded with complaints from individuals about the abrupt transfer of their votes to different constituencies. This reporter personally checked the enrollment of their vote via the 8300 text service and was dismayed to find their vote transferred from their home constituency NA-128 to NA-126. Interestingly, votes from other family members remain enrolled in the home constituency.

Columnist Sarwar Bari remarked on the microblogging site X, formerly Twitter, that in the past few days, the ECP has changed polling stations. He urged everyone to check their polling station details via the 8300 service. Anchor and vlogger Imran Riaz accused in his latest YouTube episode that thousands of votes have been transferred to other constituencies in Lahore alone, citing various documents.

Netizen Zia blamed the ECP for splitting families and scattering their votes to far-flung areas. One family member was assigned to a polling station in Rawalpindi without an address.

Meena Khan also complained that his vote was enrolled in Rashid Ghari School, Peshawar, according to the polling scheme, but the 8300 text service mentioned it in Asia Park locality. He termed the change in the polling list manipulation for potential rigging.

Hafiz Umair alleged that various polling stations in Faisalabad had been changed. Another netizen lamented that the SMS sent to 8300 showed a different polling station for him than where he had voted in the last two elections, close to his residence. An X user alleged that he checked his voting credentials on January 24 and then yesterday, finding different results for everyone in his family.

Abdul Rashid Aasim claimed that his vote had been transferred to another constituency around 15km away from his permanent address. Another netizen claimed that he knew people in his village whose votes had been moved to a place 30-40km away, unrelated to where they lived. They had never been there, he asserted.

Tagging the ECP, Talha Farooq said his family’s polling station had not been changed, however, they had been assigned three different polling stations, each 15 minutes away from each other and their home. For the previous two general elections, they had all gone to one polling station, he added.

When this reporter complained to ECP WhatsApp and the landline helpline about the abrupt transfer of votes to another constituency, there was no response. After asking the spokesperson for the ECP for the resolution of the same complaint, a call was finally received. The spokesperson admitted that after the finalisation of the latest electoral roll, voting lists had been updated afresh. It is part of the process, and there is no ill intention, she claimed.

When the attention of the ECP spokesperson was drawn to the many similar complaints lodged through social media, she insisted that such complaints were not numerous and that adding corrections to the polling list could have been done after complaining within the stipulated time.

Originally published in The News

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