THE common roll updates are well underway for next year’s Papua New Guinea general election.
Everyone 18 years of age and over is being registered so as to be eligible to cast a vote in this government-run program.
This is an important election prerequisite as it goes to the honesty and fairness with which the election will be conducted.
And it is a process that attracts much scrutiny from political parties and candidates both of the Electoral Commission and the government.
Alleged abuses or slackness by the Electoral Commission are met with harsh criticism and sometimes the matter ends up in court.
When the update is finished it should provide the entire eligible voting population of each electorate. This should ensure that every eligible voter gets to vote. A crucial component of a democratic election.
Unfortunately in PNG, history records many instances of abuse during common roll updates.
Intending candidates and sitting MPs have been using the updates to corruptly inflate their voter bases with ghost names – sometimes numbering in the hundreds at a single polling station.
Others are more subtle, adding just 10-20 names to the common rolls across several polling stations.
Much to the dismay of good people, this is now a common and widespread practice.
Now, with the election just six months away, reports of electoral roll abuse are emerging.
For instance, it has been alleged that some intending candidates have bought the ‘extra’ common roll forms that are sent to individual electorates.
These extra forms are despatch to each electorate by the Electoral Commission as insurance to cover spoilage, loss or estimation errors in the number of electors to be enrolled.
Using a formula, the Electoral Commission calculates how many ‘extras’ each electorate receives.
In at least some electorates, however, it seems that the proper distribution of the extras won't happen.
During polling these extras will return to the electorates as ballot papers. This time to the offenders’ polling stations of choice.
Where then is PNG's respite? That elusive ‘kol win’ PNG needs to breath?
Still reeling from bad and selfish political leadership, Papua New Guinea may have started its preparations for the 2017 elections in precisely the wrong place.
Yet, it is still early days. Perhaps PNG’s deep and strong conviction for change might win this time around.
God bless Papua New Guinea.