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Invalid votes are a cause for concern every election: 7 things you should do to make your votes count

File: Vote counting begins in Kathmandu after local level elections in May 2017.

In the upcoming local elections, you are going to cast your votes, but before you step into the polling booth, there are a few things you need to understand about the whole process. In particular, you need to learn about valid and invalid votes.

After all, you do not want your votes to go in vain just because you missed a few key things. We say this because the Election Commission has set quite a few criteria for valid and invalid votes.  

As an informed citizen, you ought to know the following rules (in order of the voting process), just so that your vote is not tagged as an invalid vote. 

1. Confirm the voting officer’s signature

local elections voting process
Screengrab from a video of Election Commission Nepal.

When you enter the booth, you will be given the ballot paper on which you will cast your vote. When you receive the paper, first check whether the paper has been signed by the voting officer. If the ballot paper does not have the signature, you are going to case an invalid vote. 

2. Use the swastika stamp only

local elections voting processlocal elections voting process
Screengrab from a video of Election Commission Nepal.

When you reach the polling booth, you will see the swastika stamp and the ink pad to use. This means you do not have to take any pen or marker to cast your vote. In fact, the use of anything other than the swastika stamp will make an invalid vote. 

Another major mistake that people tend to make is to cast their vote using their thumbprint, which is also not allowed and will cause your vote to be invalid. 

3. Make your stamp clear

local elections voting process
Screengrabs from a video of Election Commission Nepal. (Note: Edited for editorial purposes)

When you use the swastika stamp to cast your vote, make sure that you do not use too much or too little ink. Either of the two will result in your symbol being unreadable and your vote being invalid. 

Also, do not smudge the ink or use the stamp twice on the same spot.

4. Cast one vote per column

local elections voting process invalid vote
Screengrabs from a video of Election Commission Nepal. (Note: Edited for editorial purposes)

Choose to vote for the electoral symbol of your desired candidate only. Do not cast a vote for two candidates in a single column. This will result in you casting an invalid vote. So make sure that you are only using one vote and that it is clear to read.

5. Stay inside the box

local elections voting process invalid vote
Screengrabs from a video of Election Commission Nepal. (Note: Edited for editorial purposes)

When you cast your vote for your candidate, make sure to vote and stay inside the set box. Do not put your stamp outside the box.

Make sure that your stamp in the box does not overlap with another, horizontally or vertically. You cannot vote for two candidates or divide your vote. Hence, make sure it is easy and clear to read so that your choice will not be ignored as an invalid vote.

6. Fold the ballot paper in a proper way

local elections voting process
Screengrabs from a video of Election Commission Nepal. (Note: Edited for editorial purposes)

Since the ballot paper is a big piece of paper, you will have to fold the paper before you drop the paper into the box. You need to fold the paper also to maintain the secrecy of your vote.

But, how you fold the paper can also affect your vote from being valid or invalid. Do not fold the paper in a way the face of the paper is turned outside. Also while folding, make sure that the ink does not get smudged or leave an imprint on any other symbol. 

You can fold the paper as shown in the picture. However, depending on where you cast your vote might change how you can fold your ballot paper. 

Be mindful of where the ink stamp is and where it can leave an imprint. It is also a good idea to make sure that the ink has dried before you fold the paper. It will save you the trouble of finding ways to fold and not mess up your vote.

7. But, voting in all seven columns is not necessary

local elections voting process
Screengrabs from a video of Election Commission Nepal. (Note: Edited for editorial purposes)

You are expected to vote for all seven positions on your ballot paper for the local elections. However, you can also choose to vote for one or two or as many candidates as you want and leave the rest out. For example, you can choose to vote for your mayor/chairperson and not the rest, or mayor and ward chair but not others, or for deputy mayor and ward members and leave the rest. That will not be considered an invalid vote. 

But, even while doing so, you have to follow the aforementioned conditions and choose the candidate you want to vote for, in a clear manner.

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