KAMPALA – The elections for division mayors and councillors nationwide on Monday, January 25, 2021, was characterised by low voter turnout, late delivery of voting materials and mix-up of candidate’s names on ballot papers.
At several polling stations visited by our reporters, voting was suspended after voters found that the ballot papers bore names of candidates from other polling areas. This for instance happened in Rukungiri Municipality where the Electoral Commission suspended voting at all polling stations in Rwentondo Ward, Eastern Division after the ballot papers were found with wrong photos for female councilor candidates.
Abas Namara, the Rukungiri district returning Officer, says the ballot papers were exchanged with those from Fort Portal. As such, he said, the exercise had to be suspended until further notice.
“Photos on the ballot papers were not matching with the candidates and instead were displaying candidates from Fort portal so we had to postpone the exercise until further notice” Namara said on the exercise.
In Nansana Municipality, Wakiso District, voting was halted at various polling stations because of a mix-up in polling kits. There was a mix-up of the ballot papers both female and directly elected councillors at several polling stations visited by our reporter in Nabweru and Nansana divisions.
At Katangawuzi polling station in 7/8 Ochieng zone, more than twenty voters had already cast their votes before the error was identified by one of the keen voters who realised that the names of the candidates were alien him. A similar incident was recorded at St. Joseph Catholic Church N-NAM polling station when Isaac Kamya, one of the voters returned the ballot.
The presiding officer, Josephine Kyomuhendo, realized that the directly elected councillor’s ballot papers were for another electoral area. “We didn’t see that after opening the polling kit in the morning, we removed the ballots and counted them but didn’t take the trouble to look out at the candidate’s details on the ballot papers as the box was clearly named N-NAM and even the ballot was labelled directly elected councillors” said Kyomuhendo.
In Kampala and Wakiso, voting started late due to late delivery of voting materials as well heavy rain. While voting was scheduled to start at 7 am, by this time, voting had not yet started at several polling stations. At Kampala Hill Academy in Kyebando Nsoba, agents and a few voters were still stuck outside the gate by 7 am.
At Kampala Quality Primary School voting had not started by 7:30 am. Although materials had been delivered, polling Assistants said they didn’t have the biometric machines, which agents insisted should be availed before voting could start. They agreed to wait for the delivery of the machines before the voting process could commence. At Homisdallen Primary School, the voting material was still being offloaded by 7:40 am as the agents were also being briefed on one side. Voting had not yet started by 8am.
Meanwhile, in Kamwokya, by 6:30 am polling agents and officials had arrived at the different polling station but the voting material was nowhere to be seen. At KCCA Primary Schook (MUH-Z), TLC leisure centre (NAL-O) and TLC leisure Centre (P-Z) the materials had not yet arrived.
Nicholas Katumba, a polling agent of Hamudan Ssemugoma, who is contesting for the Kampala Central Mayoral seat under the National Unity Platform- NUP, says the late delivery of vote material is unfair to the electorate. “I don’t know why materials always come late in Kamwokya yet the ten people who are supposed to check the materials to enable voting start are here but the materials are yet to reach. We are told the materials are supposed to be at polling Station by 6:00 am,” said Katumba.
The heavy rains that started at 8:00 am disrupted voting in different parts of Kampala and Entebbe as several polling officials, agents and voters rushed to take shelter in nearby shops, schools and churches.
At Kawempe Mbogo Zone, voting at five Polling stations was also interrupted. Voters braved the rain to cast their ballot. A few voters who had carried their umbrellas pulled them out and offered shelter to others. Polling assistants also used the few umbrellas available at the polling stations and tarpaulin to shield themselves against the rain.
Saidat Sebulime, a voter says some of the ballots were getting damaged after getting wet. She says voting should have been stopped earlier so that it can resume after the rain has stopped.
In Entebbe rain equally disrupted elections. Some polling officials proposed that Electoral Commission plans for the rains next time by either getting umbrellas, tents or even securing Government buildings for the voting exercise. Sam Katerega, a polling assistant at A-M Polling station in Bunonko-Misoli Village Kigungu Parish, says the Electoral Commission should have provided tents due to the looming rains.