Counting the Votes and Proclaiming Results
The “National Dialogue,” organized in 2012, led to the agreement to create a permanent National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) with a mandate to organize elections and consequently terminate the Ministry of Interior’s role as the main organizer of elections in Mauritania. The counting of votes and the proclamation of results is now different by law from how it was previously conducted by the Ministry of Interior. Before considering the new system of vote counting and proclamation of results, it is instructive to examine how the system was previously organized. We will look at five domains: the counting of votes, the centralization of results, the reinstating of nullified votes, the proclamation of results, and the publicizing of each polling station’s results.
The former system for counting votes and proclaiming results
Vote counting: vote counting was conducted from beginning to end by the Ministry of Interior under supervision of the former CENI. The counting system proved to be problematic during the first round of past legislative and municipal elections, mainly because three elections were combined (municipal, legislative and presidential). The large number of nullified votes during that first election proved to be a significant weakness in the electoral system: 10.1% for municipal elections, 15.6% for legislative elections (constituency system), and 23.6% for legislative elections by national list. Electoral observers noted that the interpretation of valid versus invalid signs used by voters to indicate their choice was too narrow. The Ministry of Interior had to call upon members of polling stations to show more flexibility in this area during the runoff. As a result, the rate of nullified votes fell considerably in the runoff election (6.2%).
Drawing on lessons from the municipal and legislative elections, the Ministry of Interior improved considerably the format of the minutes produced by polling stations in view of the 2007 and 2009 presidential elections. After counting the votes, excerpts of the minutes, including the results of the ballot, were posted at each polling station and generally issued to each candidate’s representative.
Centralization of results: the centralization of the municipal and legislative election results was conducted in two stages. In each Moughataa (sub-regions), departmental committees for the centralization of electoral results were chaired by a judge and included two civil servants who were jointly appointed by the Minister of Interior and the Minister of Justice. In each Wilaya (region) a regional committee, chaired by the Wali and including two judges and two civil servants, was established for centralization of electoral results. In the case of municipal elections, the regional committee transmitted its minutes and regional results to the Supreme Court, while for legislative elections these were sent to the Constitutional Court. In addition, for legislative elections, a copy of the minutes and regional results were sent to the CENI and the Ministry of Interior.
The centralization of municipal and legislative elections was conducted in a reasonable, transparent manner.
The processes for the centralization of results in the 2007-2009 presidential elections were similar, except that they took place in the 53 Moughataas – the Wilayas (regions) were not involved. The 53 committees for the centralization of votes were chaired by judges (reporting directly to the Constitutional Court) and were theoretically independent from the administrative authorities of the executive branch. However, because of the lack of precision in the law, many discrepancies were observed in the operations of the committees. In some committees, administrative authorities were so involved that they seemed to be in charge. However, the centralization of the results was conducted in a fairly efficient and transparent manner.
Reinstating nullified electoral ballots: claims were made to reinstate nullified votes and to recount ballots, especially in Aleg and Kiffa, during the legislative elections. Faced with these appeals, administrative authorities were hesitant and unsure about which decisions to make or how to implement them.
Proclamation of results: the laws related to elections stipulate that the Ministry of Interior has the mandate to proclaim provisional results without indicating any deadlines (for presidential elections, it is merely stated that, “for each Moughataa, the counting of the votes should be completed, at the latest, at midnight, on the following Monday, after the elections, Article 28 of the Decree 91-140, modified by Decree 2007-001”). For municipal and legislative elections, the provisional results become automatically final; after the adjudication of all disputes, the rulings are issued by the Supreme Court or the Constitutional Court. For presidential elections, they must be proclaimed officially by the Constitutional Court.
Publicizing of the results for each polling station: during the day of consultation organized on October 31, 2006, government authorities had agreed to make the following commitments to political parties: to post detailed results for each polling station on the Internet, to facilitate the verification of these results, and to present information regarding the possibility of disputes. But in the end, the Ministry of Interior posted the results of only a few Wilayas. During the runoff of the presidential elections, the Ministry of Interior posted the results of many polling stations on the Internet, but this was done unsystematically and the effort was never completed. However, the CENI has worked with the Ministry of Interior to develop a mechanism for the faster announcement of comprehensive results of the polling stations.
The new system for counting the votes and proclaiming final results
In the new system, the CENI has the mandate to organize the counting of votes. The counting is conducted inside the polling station chaired by a President who is supported by two deputy presidents. The deputy presidents are all appointed by the CENI after deliberation and upon nominations by the CENI’s regional and local chapters. As soon as a polling station is closed, its members start the counting process. The counting must proceed uninterrupted until its completion.
The members of the polling station determine the number of cast ballots after subtracting the number of nullified ballots from the total number of ballots found in the ballot box. Once the counting process is over, the members of the polling station determine the final figures by adding up numbers logged on the ballot reporting sheets. Each candidate or list of candidates calculates the votes they have received.
The minutes of the counting operations must be written immediately at the polling station at the end of the process. The minutes must include: (1) the number of registered voters, (2) the number of actual voters, (3) the number of nullified votes, (4) the number of ballots cast, (5) the number of blank votes and (6) the number of votes obtained by each candidate or list of candidates.
The minutes should also include all claims made by a list of candidates and all the decisions made during the course of the voting process. The president of the polling station must invite the members of the polling station to countersign the minutes. If one or more members refuse to sign the minutes, it is mentioned in the minutes with the reasons (if known). The ballots nullified by the polling station must be signed by all members of the polling station and attached to the minutes. The minutes issued by the polling station must be produced in four copies in municipal elections. These copies are sent to the following entities: (1) the Supreme Court, (2) the CENI, (3) the administrative authority who has jurisdiction over the geographic area where the voting took place and (4) the General Office of Support of the Electoral Process.
For presidential elections, copies of the minutes are issued to: (1) the Constitutional Court, (2) the CENI, (3) the Ministry of Interior, (4) the Wilaya, and (5) the Moughataa. Copies of the minutes are issued by the polling station to the representatives of candidates or lists of candidates. One copy of the minutes is posted at the polling station where it has been issued.
For the vote of the Mauritanians living abroad, five copies of the minutes are issued and distributed as follows: (1) to the Constitutional Court, (2) the CENI, (3) the Ministry of Interior, (4) the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and (5) the relevant embassy or consular office.
The Heads of Diplomatic Missions and the Consuls, immediately after receiving the results of the vote, transmit them to the above-mentioned authorities to whom the minutes are sent. The electoral minutes and the attached documents issued by polling stations are sent by diplomatic courier.
Centralization of the results: the results of legislative and municipal elections are centralized by the relevant chapter of the CENI. Once the results are tallied and centralized, minutes are issued. In case of a municipal election, they are sent to the Supreme Court, the CENI, and the Ministry of Interior; and for legislative and presidential elections, they are sent to the Constitutional Court, the CENI, and the Ministry of Interior.
Proclamation of the results: The CENI proclaims municipal and legislative elections. The Constitutional Court proclaims the final results of the presidential elections. The CENI proclaims the provisional results of the presidential elections.
Electoral disputes: in electoral disputes, two types of recourse are possible: an administrative recourse adjudicated by the CENI, and a legal recourse adjudicated by the Constitutional Court or the Supreme Court. The Constitutional Court has jurisdiction over any recourse made pertaining to a presidential or legislative election, while the Supreme Court has jurisdiction over recourse made in municipal elections.
In legislative elections, any candidate or list of candidates may request the nullification of electoral operations in their constituency after the transmission of the results to the Constitutional Court by the CENI.
For presidential elections, recourse may be made at the CENI about the decisions it has taken during the electoral process. Disputes are noted in the minutes of the polling stations or sent through a separate channel. However, recourse to the CENI does not prevent litigants from taking future recourse to the Constitutional Court, which has jurisdiction over all electoral disputes.
Any candidate may request the nullification of electoral operations. Upon transmission of the results to the Constitutional Court by the CENI, the Court has fifteen days after the recourse to adjudicate the dispute.
For municipal elections, any dispute may be presented to the CENI about the decisions taken during the electoral process. This may be recorded in the minutes of the polling stations or sent through a separate channel.
The representative of each list of candidates may request the nullification of electoral operations. Upon transmission of the results to the Supreme Court by the CENI, the Court has fifteen days after the recourse to adjudicate the dispute. This recourse, however, is not binding.
Useful links and documentary resources
- Ordonnance n° 92-004 du 18 février 1992 portant loi organique sur le Conseil constitutionnel
- Règlement n° 001-94 du 10 mars 1994 d’application de la procédure suivie devant le Conseil constitutionnel pour le contentieux de l’élection des députés et sénateurs