Counting the Votes and Proclaiming Results
In Burkina Faso, the counting and announcement of election results takes place sequentially. These two events of the electoral process are carried out by the CENI under the supervision of the courts: the Constitutional Council, the Council of State, and Administrative Courts.
The counting takes place on Election Day after polling stations close and the last voter has finished voting. The counting is done immediately at the polling stations and a record of the results is prepared right away. This initial counting is done by the members of the polling station, assisted by two tellers appointed a few hours before the polls close by the president of the polling station. The delegates of each political party running for office have the right to attend the counting. Additionally, the electoral law guarantees the public character of the counting, which allows for any citizen to attend. Despite the public nature of the counting, only members of the polling station are qualified to conduct the operation.
Once operations are complete, the members of the polling station are required to fill out the main electoral documents, namely the results and the minutes of the polling station. The minutes must be signed by all members of the polling station and party delegates who took part in the operation. Under the direction of the president of the polling station, the members prepare different envelopes for the delivery of results. Depending on the type of the elections, the following envelopes are prepared:
- For national elections: a sealed envelope is sent to the Constitutional Council. It contains a tally sheet, the minutes, and spoiled ballots. Another envelope containing the minutes is sent to the CENI. Two other envelopes containing the minutes are sent to the branches of the CENI (the CEPI and CECI or CEIA).
- For local elections: a sealed envelope is sent to the Council of State and contains a tally sheet, the minutes and spoiled ballots. Another envelope containing minutes is sent to the CENI, and another is left at the local level (CECI or CEIA).
It should be noted that all envelops are sent to the headquarters of the CENI’s branches, by escort, in order to be compiled. In addition to this, the president of each polling station posts the results of elections at the front of the office, and provides each delegate of the political parties present during the counting a copy of the results.
Once all the results arrive at the CENI, they are automatically compiled by a computer for the announcement of the provisional results. Given the difficulties of transportation throughout the country, the results of the polling stations do not arrive at the same time which slows down the process of publicizing the provisional results. Generally, it takes on average 3-5 days for the CENI to be able to announce the provisional results. For the latest combined election held December 2, 2012, the CENI used VSAT technology (Very Small Aperture Terminal) to process the results of elections, in the hope that this would reduce the amount of time required to announce the results. The experiment was unsuccessful and attracted much criticism from the public because of the high cost of the technology.
The announcement of the provisional results opens the period during which electoral disputes can be submitted either before the Constitutional Council (for legislative and presidential elections), or before the Council of State (for municipal elections). For the past municipal elections on 2 December 2012, there were several disputes. These disputes concerned the fairness of the election and the counting of votes and the results of the elections. The disputes raised by political parties focused on the fairness of the election, the counting of votes, spoiled ballots, and jurisdiction. As for the regularity of the elections, disputes were based on divergent interpretations of the Electoral Code. They also concerned the staff of the polling stations, the credibility of actors, fraud, the late opening, or some cases the closure, of some polling stations, stealing of election materials, and validity of void ballots. A significant number of cases were brought before the courts. The decisions ranged from the invalidation of elections to the inadmissibility of petitions in foreclosure, lack of standards, incompetence of the court, and dismissal because of unfounded claims. The Council of State canceled the elections in more than 600 polling stations across the country and ordered their recovery.
Overall, the decisions taken by the courts and the constructive attitude of political parties who preferred the path of legal recourse rather than that of the street have contributed to the credibility of recent elections. After dealing with the various appeals, the judges declare the final results of elections falling under their respective jurisdictions.