By Tabora Bojang
The Independent Electoral Commission has advised Gambians against giving their voter cards to third parties.
The Commission’s director of communications, Pa Makan Khan made these remarks in reaction to an inquiry by The Standard over a video showing a man displaying lots of voter cards at one of President Barrow’s meet-the-people tour gathering. The man, identified as Baba Ceesay, said to be a former UDP chairman from Chamen Nianija, was seen in one video flashing a duffel full of voter cards, all of which he was quoted as saying now belong to President Barrow, adding that he has now defected to NPP.
Commenting on the issue, Khan said though the IEC has not seen or formally reviewed the said video, the commission’s policy is to discourage people from giving out their cards to third parties.
However according to Mr Khan, it is “not illegal” for a person to be in possession of someone’s voter’s card, if the bearer has consented to it. “But no one can vote on behalf of another person; so it is not the best way to support one’s candidate,” Khan said.
“If you want to support a candidate, wait until the nomination process to support his or her nomination papers or election to cast your vote. But we do not advise people to give their cards to third parties,” he added.
Asked if Baba Ceesay, the man appearing in video, broke any law, Mr. Khan said he does not believe anyone could access voter cards en mass without the consent of its bearers. “However, we totally discourage [giving out voter cards] because the cards could be lost or held to get people disenfranchised. But it has to be clear that the bearer has the full control over their card and if they choose to give it to his or her party with his or her consent, there is nothing the IEC can do about it,” he clarified.
The communications director however advised the electorate to desist from giving their voter cards to either party affiliates or individuals for political gains.
“Don’t give your card to anyone. It is for voting. Keep them until the day of election and cast it at the polls and return home,” he advised.
A member of the civic society contacted by The Standard who begged for anonymity, said the practice of collecting people’s voter cards for whatever purpose is not a good sign in terms of credibility of elections.
”No one should give your voter’s card to anyone to show to people or to show your loyalty to a party or candidate. In the same vein, no party or candidate should collect people’s voter cards for whatever purpose. As a civic member, I want to call on all politicians to refrain from such practice and let the people decide for themselves. I think the IEC and the law enforcement officials should send a clear message on this. This is what leads to vote-buying,” he said.