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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Voting marred by missing ballots

Norwegians were streaming to voting sites all over the country on Monday, to vote for who should lead their local governments for the next four years. Reports of some election trouble, though, were streaming in as well.

Ballot boxes like this one were getting filled up all over Norway on Monday, as voters headed to the polls in municipal elections. PHOTO:

The problems revolved around a lack of ballots in some voting booths for several of the small parties seeking representation on local city councils. Norwegians, who vote for parties instead of specific candidates, exercise their franchise by choosing a paper ballot called a stemmeseddel that lists candidates from their preferred party. Voters choose their ballot from racks located inside the voting booth.

Nine political parties are currently represented in Parliament, but at the local level there can be many more vying for voter support. Some parties get formed simply to represent a single issue (such as protests against road tolls, or a recent decision in Bergen to run a new tram line over the West Coast city’s historic wharf called Bryggen).

The Bergenslisten party was among those complaining on Monday (Election Day in Norway this year) that their ballot was missing from some polling places, also during early voting over the past two weeks. “We got two- to three reports daily that voters couldn’t find our list (ballot) in the voting booth,” Trond Tystad, leader of Bergenslisten, told state broadcaster NRK. He suspects other voters took the lists, or turned them around in the booth so his party’s name couldn’t be seen.

Norwegians vote by selecting a paper ballot like this one that lists all the candidates for the party of their choice. Then the ballot is certified with a stamp and placed in a ballot box under strict supervision of those checking voters’ IDs. There can be lots of ballots to choose from in the voting booth, since Norway has many small parties in addition to the nine currently represented in Parliament. Ballots missing for some of the parties sparked complaints on Election Day on Monday.  PHOTO: KMD

The problem was corrected after he alerted election officials, “but it’s clear our ballot must have sparked some strong feelings.”

Other complaints were flowing in Election Day on Monday. One polling place in Østfold (Southeastern Norway) allegedly forgot to stock ballots for the new Industri- og Næringspartiet (INP) that favours tax relief for business and wants Norway to drop out of climate cooperation with the EU, while INP ballots were also missing in Lardal north of Larvik.

In Nordkjosbotn in Northern Norway, one voter complained that ballots for the small Konservativt Balsfjord party hadn’t been placed in the booth, while ballots were missing for the Sentrum, Liberalistene and Konservativt parties in Tysnes in Western Norway. Newspaper VG reported that one polling place in Kongsberg had also failed to supply ballots for the Konservativt party.

In Rælingen, east of Oslo, one voter found ballots for the Greens Party (MDG) hidden behind those of another party. That suggested more suspicions that voters previously in the booth had stashed the Greens’ ballots out of sight.

Ballots were quickly made available for those that were lacking, and election officials apologized. “It’s completely unacceptable that people do this,” Ida Rambech, in charge of elections in Bergen, told NRK. “We try to monitor this as best we can.” Berglund



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