Polling days for parliamentary elections are fixed for an election or the commencement of an election by the President acting on the advice of the Prime Minister, given after consultation with the Electoral Commission (EC) and the Principal Electoral Officer (PEO). For provincial (local government) and municipal elections, the date is equally set by the EC, but in consultation with the Minister of Internal Affairs.

Generally, there is one polling station in each polling district, although in populated areas (mostly urban) there can be more than one polling station in a district. The registration officer for the district suggests the locations for the polling stations after consulting with the PEO, and the locations needs to be approved by the EC. Approved locations for polling stations are published in the official Gazette. Polling stations are located mostly in schools and community centers, and are managed by presiding officers, assisted by polling clerks. Police provide security at polling locations. All registered voters must cast their ballots at the allocated polling station. Polling takes place from 7h30am to 4h30pm. Political party agents and electoral observers are allowed to witness the procedures inside the polling station.

Every polling station has a returning (“presiding”) officer appointed by the registration officer. The registration officer will also appoint clerks to assist the returning (“presiding”) officer.

Voting procedures are the same for national, provincial and municipal elections. Procedures for the opening of the polls include checking sensitive materials inside the ballot box, displaying the empty ballot box to all present, including polling officials, candidates or their agents, and electoral observers. The presiding officer then immediately locks the empty ballot box with two padlocks.

Voters must present their voter cards to the polling clerk in order to cast their vote. If a person does not present his/her electoral card, he/she will not be able to vote. The polling clerk checks that there is no stamp corresponding to the current election on the voter card, and to confirm that the voter is at the right polling station. The polling clerk then checks the electoral roll to confirm that the voter’s name is on the roll. If a person’s name is not found on the electoral roll, they cannot vote, irrespective of whether they have a valid voter card. The polling clerk checks the details on the electoral card to satisfy themselves that the individual corresponds to the information (age, gender etc.). If satisfied, the polling clerk places a tick at the left-hand margin of the roll against the voter’s number.

The polling clerk then hands a voting envelope and a “book” of ballot papers to the voter. The voter proceeds alone to the voting booth, where the voter records his vote by placing the ballot paper bearing the name and photograph and symbol of the chosen candidate into an envelope. The voter presents to the polling clerk who, without touching it, verifies that the voter tenders one envelope only. The voter then places the envelope in the ballot box. The polling clerk observes the disposal of the unused pages of the ballot book. Any person suffering from a physical disability, as well as older voters, may designate a person of their choice to accompany them into the voting booth.

Finally, the polling clerk stamps the voter card in the place marked “date of voting,” with the official government stamp, and adds the date and their initials in the space provided. The polling clerk inks the voter’s left thumb with indelible ink, and then returns the card to the voter, who departs the polling station. Voters are given one ballot paper for each candidate and one envelope, and they are to choose on ballot and place it in the envelope.

Polling closes at 16h30, however the presiding officer has the option to extend the hours of polling if there are voters waiting to vote. The presiding officer consults with polling clerks and candidate agents at least half an hour prior, in making a decision to extend the hours of polling

For more information, visit the Vanuatu Electoral Office website