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Disqualified votes more than margin of victory—but that’s nothing new ​

July 31, 2018

A villager casts his vote at a polling station during general election in Mohri Pur, some 60 kilometres from the central Pakistan city of Multan on July 25, 2018. – AFP

In 35 National Assembly constituencies the number of votes rejected or disqualified is higher than the margin of victory of the winning candidate. This data was released in election watchdog FAFEN’s Preliminary Election Observation Report. And while this may come as a shock to many, especially the losing candidate, some digging by SAMAA Digital found that this is nothing out of the ordinary.

Scraped results from the ECP’s election dashboard showed that 50, not 35 (according to FAFEN), of the 270 constituencies contested were won with a margin of victory less than the disqualified votes.
Out of these 50 seats, 20 (40%) were won by the PTI while 11 (22%) were won by the PML-N.
This difference of 15 constituencies is most likely due to the fact that the preliminary report was based on ECP data which wasn’t complete at the time the report was published. FAFEN is due to release a more comprehensive report later this week.


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In these general elections, when the PML-N emerged with the most National Assembly seats, there were 34 such constituencies. On these NA seats the margin of victory was less than the disqualified votes.
PML-N won: 12 out of these 34 seats (35.2%)
PPP won: 5 out of these 34 seats (14.7%)

In these general elections, when the PPP was victorious, 45 NA seats were won with a margin of victory less than the disqualified votes.
PML-Q won: 16 out of these 45 constituencies
PPP won: 8 out of these 45 constituencies

In the 2002 general elections, when the PML-Q won a majority of seats in the National Assembly, 33 such seats were identified.
PML-Q won: 13 out of 33 such seats
PPP won: 8 out of 33 such seats

What is this disqualified vote formula?
If candidate Ayesha gets 40,000 votes and candidate Kiran gets 35,000 votes, the margin of victory is 5,000 votes.

Margin of victory = Winning candidates votes — runner-up candidate votes
Margin of victory = 40,000 minus 35,000 = 5,000

But beyond these votes that end up being counted, are many that are “put in the dustbin”.
In an election many votes are discarded for several reasons. They are called “disqualified” or “invalid” votes.

Disqualified or invalid votes are the ones that the Election Commission staff rejects at the polling stations due to something that went wrong (irregularities) on the ballot paper.
These votes are rejected if, among other reasons, for example:

A voter stamps more than one party symbol. (You’re supposed to just stamp one)
The ballot paper is missing the official code mark or assistant presiding officer’s signature
The ballot paper is missing the ECP’s watermark
The ballot paper is missing the official nine-matrix seal
The ballot paper has a paper or anything else attached to it
If you have multiple stamps, even if they are on the same symbol, presiding officers have rejected them. The rules say that the “intention” of the voter is clear a ballot should be counted. In this spirit multiple stamping on the same symbol shows that the voter’s intention was clear.

But back to the margin of victory controversy. For example, in Ayesha and Kiran’s constituency, let’s say 6,000 votes were invalidated or didn’t make it through. Kiran (who lost by 5,000 votes) could argue, that if the rejected votes were recounted, she could discover that more people had in fact voted for her.

In this hypothetical case, the margin of victory (5k) is less than the disqualified votes of (6k).
People are saying we should know exactly why votes were rejected.

The easiest way is to recount the rejected votes in front of everyone. That way, you can tell if the vote was discarded because it was a voter’s fault or, say, the ECP’s. Usually, however, when there is a recount, it is for the correct votes. But that doesn’t help. People are saying the rejected votes should be recounted.

Disclaimer: ECP results are provisional and contain numerous data entry errors


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