The use of a single ballot has been one of the major changes in the electoral process during the period of transition (elections of 2006 and 2007). The use of a single ballot allows the voter to select a candidate or a list of candidates featured on one ballot. It is different from the multiple ballot system in which the voter had to select the ballot of one candidate or list of candidates and insert it into the ballot box. The single ballot was adopted for all elections and has replaced the multiple ballots system.
The use of multiple ballots was generally considered to be more susceptible to wrongdoing, such as confiscating people’s freedom to vote or undermining the secrecy of the ballot (with multiple ballots, it is almost impossible to prevent a voter from leaving the polling station with at least a number of ballots he/she did not use, which would be proof that an individual did not vote for a candidate or a list of candidates).
One of the concerns with the use of the single ballot was its novelty and complexity of use. The voter makes a valid choice by writing the Arabic alphabet letter “ب” or by stamping the box representing his/her choice of candidate or list of candidates. For the electoral constituencies of Nouakchott, there were 41 lists of candidates for the legislative elections, printed in double columns on A3 paper. The large number of votes declared void revealed the difficulties as well as the narrow definition of a void ballot adopted by those in charge of counting votes in polling stations. Furthermore, the Ministry of Interior distributed the model of the ballot to be used rather late and in insufficient number, which decreased the chances for voters to familiarize themselves with the ballot during the electoral awareness campaigns (which were already limited in scope).
The conception and production of ballots for legislative and municipal elections were sources of disagreements that delayed their availability but they were still produced by the electoral calendar’s deadlines. The disagreement arose in September 2006 when the Ministry of Interior decided to have the state printing office produce the ballots. The CENI and international partners wished to see certain technical specifications included on the ballots; however, the State printing office did not have the ability to deliver those specifications.
Finally, the CENI and the Ministry of Interior found a compromise, and the British company Smith and Ouzman was contracted to print the 3.9 million ballots for the municipal and legislative elections, for a cost of 600,000 Euros paid by the Mauritanian Government. Most of the CENI’s technical concerns regarding the marking and security features on the ballots were met (notably, a quality of 95 gram paper that can retain ink and the stamp used by voters on the ballot).
Despite the difficulties related to last minute changes (change in rank order of candidates and lists, change of color and logos of some lists of candidates), the ballots were printed in time for the elections.
The printing of the single ballots for the 2007 and 2009 presidential elections was simpler. The production contract was awarded to the same British company, Smith and Ouzman, and the same technical specifications were used, but additional security features were included such as thermoreactive-based technology.
Two major elements characterize the reforms brought by the legislation that derived from the “National Dialogue”. First of all, it is the CENI and not the Ministry of Interior that has the mandate to produce ballots. The format of the ballots must comply with the provisions of Decree 2006-90 of August 18, 2006, mandating the use of a single ballot for presidential, legislative and municipal elections. Second, the voter may validly indicate his/her choice by any sign he/she decides to use.
Useful links and documentary resources
- Décret n° 2006-090 du 18 aout 2006 instituant le bulletin unique pour les élections présidentielles, parlementaires et municipales.
- Décret n° 2007-044 du 08 février 2007 définissant les spécifications techniques des photos des candidats aux élections présidentielles.
- Décret n° 2006-090 MIPTPM du 18 août 2006 instituant le bulletin unique pour les élections présidentielles, parlementaires et municipales.