All arrangements are in place for a free and fair election today to elect members to 234 Local Government bodies which will have 3,036 elected members, the Elections Commissioner’s Department said. Those eligible to vote are requested to exercise their franchise at polling stations from 7 am to 4 pm today.
Elections will be held in 7,396 polling stations to elect 3,031 candidates for 235 out of 335 local Government authorities. The Local Government authorities in the fray today include three Municipal Councils, 30 Urban Councils and 202 Pradeshiya Sabhas.
The counting is scheduled to commence at midnight today at around 1,000 counting centres. Several counting centres have also been established to count postal votes which will take place first. The first election result will be released by midnight today or in the wee hours of tomorrow, the Elections Commissioner’s Office said.
Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake yesterday advised voters to cast their vote to a political party or an independent group of their choice first as a ballot paper without a vote is deemed invalid. “The ballot paper without vote is deemed invalid and it has no value. Please remember to cast the vote first and proceed to the preferences if you wish,” he added.
A total of 9,813,375 people are eligible to cast their vote today at 7,402 centres while over 80,000 government employees will be on election duty. The Elections Commissioner has deployed over 70,000 police personnel for election duty.
The Army will also be deployed to assist the police to prevent possible incidents at polling stations.
Special Task Force (STF) officials will also be deployed at polling stations where certain incidents had been reported during earlier elections. STF contingents have been dispatched to particular centres where violent incidents could be expected. The police along with the STF will provide protection to District Counting Centres, Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake said.
Meanwhile, around 80,000 government servants and a considerable volume of resources including vehicles will be deployed on election duty to facilitate the process.
Police Department sources added that special security would be provided to polling stations and counting centres. Sources added that no person other than authorized by the respective returning officer or Government Agent will be allowed to enter counting centres.
Meanwhile, no person will, be allowed to enter either a polling centre or counting centre with firearms. Using camera phones inside the polling centres is also banned. According to the Elections Commissioner’s Department, video filming and still cameras have been limited only for the President, Prime Minister, Speaker, Opposition Leader and Political Party Secretaries.
Voters will need to prove their identity by producing a valid identity card before they will be issued a ballot paper. Those without identity documents will not be able to cast their votes. However a polling card is not compulsory for a voter to cast his/her vote.
The Election Commissioner has allowed election monitors to monitor the election process with a view to holding a free and fair election. The Election Commissioner will nullify results of polling centres where election violences are reported. The issuing of result regarding the particular local government body will also be withheld and a fresh election will be held for the nullified election division in due course.
Soon after the conclusion of vote, ballot boxes will be sealed by the Senior Polling Officers in the presence of party and independent group representatives.
These representatives will be allowed to place two stickers on the ballot box. Thereafter the ballot boxes will be transported from polling centres to counting centres with police protection.
Transport Minister Kumara Welgama directed Sri Lanka Railways officials to deploy special train service for the benefit of Government servants on election duty and the people who leave for their home towns for voting.
Fuel stations in areas where the election is held will be kept open round the clock on March 17.
The Elections Commissioner rejected 452 out of 2,047 nomination papers in terms of the Local Authorities Election Ordinance.’
Local Government elections will not be held in 64 electorates as political parties filed writ applications in the Court of Appeal against the rejection of their nomination papers by the Department.
Thirty-four Local Government authorities including the Colombo Municipal Council have not been scheduled for election.
Election for the two local Government bodies namely Puthukudiyirupu and Maritime Pattu Pradeshiya Sabhas in the Mullaitivu district were postponed due to voters not being resettled as the area is dotted with landmines and booby traps.