Cyprus Editorial: Is it time for postal ballots?

20 December, 2017 | Posted By: Financial Mirror

The government campaign to encourage young people to register to vote was a complete disaster, worse than earlier efforts, with barely a quarter of the eligible 40,000 who had come of age signing up, and an equally disappointing number of voters registered to cast their votes overseas.

The emoji-inspired campaign (“be responsible and vote, or stop moaning about the result”) failed to deliver the anticipated result, not realising that it is not the voting process that is dysfunctional, rather there is a lack of trust in politicians and those in government.

With so much Christmas cheer being doshed out in cash gifts and never-to-be-implemented promises, one would have thought that the economy had well overcome the economic crisis of the past few years and prosperity was flowing in the form of golden rivers and diamonds falling off apple trees.

In fact, if indeed prosperity has returned, then the government and all the political parties, as well as other stakeholders in society should have run a joint campaign to get people, mainly youngsters and university students to register, with a follow-up over the remaining four weeks to say “go vote”, aimed at those who registered and have simply given up.

On the other hand, some commentators suggest that the turnout would be the same, either way, as those who show apathy would have cast a blank, chosen an alternative or not shown up at all.

Perhaps, then, the time has come for a postal ballot, where the jury is out on the merits and shortcomings of this system, as posting a vote could get more people involved to cast their ballot at their own pace, while some suggest that postal ballots are more prone to fraud.

Britain introduced postal voting on demand in 2001, and some states in the U.S. even have “all vote-by-mail” elections, where in both cases it all depends on the reliability of the Royal Main and the U.S. Postal Service. Some states in America have gone a step further allowing “drive-thru” voting whereby voters leave their absentee ballots in a drop box at designated locations, while some locations even allow drop-off voting.

To be fair, despite the criticism of the civil service in Cyprus, elections is one area where transparency is at its best, the system works well and fraud is almost non-existent. It is the politicians who seem to mess up and often create obstacles for an otherwise smooth operation.

With a record number of overseas polling stations allowed for this year (eight in Greece, seven in the UK and 14 in the rest of Europe, the Middle East and New York), greater consideration should have been given to the youth who are mainly university students. With this is mind, more would have opted to register to vote if they had the option of a postal ballot, not the nuisance of going to a polling station, a discomfort and nuisance of an activity for many.