The 2019 Sri Lankan Presidential election. It’s a bit complicated
Sri Lanka’s 2019 Presidential election is this Saturday. This is our most complicated election yet. There are 35 candidates, with four major ones. This makes voting more complicated than ever. I’ll run through some basic guidelines here. This election is important. Please don’t mess it up.
1| Can You Vote?
Before you even get in the booth, however, you need to be able to vote. You can check your registration on the 2018 list here. If your NIC shows up then you’re good, just go to that polling station and you can vote. If your name doesn’t show up there I’m very sorry, it’s too late. I have heard that many people have been left off the rolls this year and this is an absolute travesty. I’m sorry.
2| Going To Vote
You can cast your vote from 7 AM to 5 PM on the 16th of November. This is Saturday. You must bring a valid Sri Lankan ID. You must bring one of the following.
- National Identity Card
- Sri Lankan Passport
- Driving License
- Government Pensioners ID
- Elders ID
- Bhikku/Priests ID
- Temporary ID (issued by the Elections Commission through the Grama Niladari)
You do not have to bring your polling card. You should have received one in the mail, but as long as your name is on the electoral roll, you can vote.
Everyone is entitled for leave in order to vote, at least a half day if you’re travelling less than 40km, up to two days if you’re going across the island.
When you enter the polling area (likely a school) they will check your ID and then read your name aloud. Election monitors (from the major parties) will check your name off against a list. Then you can go in and vote.
Note that you cannot campaign at a polling station. You cannot wear political clothing. I would even avoid political colors, but who even knows what they are anymore. Don’t try to influence or threaten people or do anything stupid. Just shut up, keep your hands to yourself and vote.
3| How To Vote
When you’re in the booth, there are only four (4) valid ways to vote. The GIF above shows every possible valid vote.
- 1, 2
- 1, 2, 3
You can mark an X or a 1 next to a single candidate. You can mark 1 and a 2 for two candidates. Or you can mark a 1 and a 2 and a 3 for three candidates. That’s it. Anything else is an invalid vote. Don’t put three Xs, don’t put 4 candidates, don’t sign your name, don’t put your thumbprint. Either one X or up to 3 numbers. That’s it. CMEV has a more exhaustive list of how you can mess this up, but there are only four ways to get it right.
I hope this makes sense. I really hope this makes sense.
How The Election Works
This year is complicated because more people may want to choose more than one candidate. This is called contingent voting and it is actually the mathematically best system for voting. It roughly works like this.
I’ll use real examples just because it’s simpler.
Let’s say that neither Gota or Sajith gets 50%, but they’re the top two candidates. Everyone else is then eliminated. It becomes a two person race.
Then the counters look through all the AKD and Mahesh votes to see if they marked a second or third preference with someone viable. Those are added to the Sajith or Gota piles. The winner has more than 50% of the new total.
This is a mathematically elegant system, but we’ve never done it before and it’s a bit confusing. In any given election about a hundred thousand ballots are spoiled. In this one it could be more.
Sri Lankans are actually remarkably high information voters. Our turnout is usually above 80% and all of us manage to have valid ID, to get registered and show up on time. We also manage to figure out politicians and parties that are constantly flipping, making alliances and appearing and disappearing. Honestly, kudos to us.
This is the first year we may really test or preferential system, but it is there and people have every right to use it. In this way you can vote for your truly preferred candidate and still have a say in the final count, which will likely be between two people as always. So remember, one X or up to three numbers.
I’ve made the GIF without any language and the CMEV has a more comprehensive albeit confusing guide in all three languages. I hope you understand how to vote and can educate others. Let’s not mess this up.