The election authorities of the small West African nation of The Gambia that has been using marbles and ballot drums for over 50 years say they are now switching to ballot papers.
The chairman of Gambia’s Independent Electoral Commission, Alieu Mommar Naji said his institution is working on introducing ballot papers in the country’s coming local government elections slated for April 2018.
Njai, who dared to declare the election results against Gambia’s former dictator Yahya Jammeh, who rejected it a week after conceding defeat, said ballot papers are much convenient than the marbles.
The political change in Gambia has triggered mass participation in politics which makes it quite inconvenient to continue with the marbles.
“We cannot afford to continue with this ballot system… With the change of system in governance, Gambians are now participating in politics in numbers and that means in every election, we will make lots of drums and paint them with different colors.
“That why we are working towards a paper ballot system. These drums are not just expensive to make but you have to paint them with party color and where you have independent candidates, you give each a color,” said Njai.
Gambia has a high level of illiteracy and the unique voting system was introduced in the early 1960s to address that but Njai said the country is now prepared for ballot papers.
“There are countries using the ballot papers that have lower literacy level than us,” he argued.
When a marble is dropped into the drum, it hits a bell which indicates a vote has just been cast. To prevent other sounds the drum has saw dust or sand inside.
Counting is snappy as the marbles are poured from the ballot drum into a wooden tray with 200 or 500 holes.
Gambia has witnessed a historic political change on December 1 last year where entrenched dictator Jammeh suffered defeat at the hands of coalition opposition leader, Adama Barrow.
In the country’s recent parliamentary polls, a historic 239 candidates have contested for 53 constituencies with the longtime main opposition party, the UDP, which is also part of the coalition government, winning an absolute majority.