Opinion: Stemfies (taking pictures of your ballot showing your vote)

POSTED: 05/11/14 7:25 PM

The court in The Hague has spoken and the effect must be palpable in St. Maarten. There is no law that prohibits voters from taking pictures of themselves with their ballot showing whom they voted for. This is true for the Netherlands, but it is also true for St. Maarten. Our Electoral Law contains not a single article that refers to the use of cameras or other recording devices in the voting booth.

We all know that taking pictures of ballots has been an ongoing issue during elections in St. Maarten. Independent MP Frans Richardson called last year in a motion for free and fair elections (urging the government to take a number of measures that actually were already in place). Now the brilliant idea has come up to remove the black curtains from the voting booth. This way it is easier to see whether someone is taking a picture of her or his ballot.

What our politicians apparently have forgotten that there is no legal basis to prohibit taking these so-called stemfies. So why take down those curtains? It does not make sense at all.

The Foundation for the Protection of Civil Rights in the Netherlands has of course a point with its objections against stemfies. They seem to open the door for pressure from third parties to vote a certain way – with or without a reward in return. That pressure could come from within the family, from the workplace or from religious circles. In a more subtle way, political parties and individual candidates could also play such a dubious role. On August 4, we will witness the 2010 election fraud case and if the court concludes its handling that day, the ruling will be there on August 25, four days before the elections.

From the Dutch court ruling, however, we learn that there are ways to get around the external pressure and demands for proof of voting. Voters could take a stemfie of a ballot that shows they voted for party A, then go to the chairman of the polling station, say they made a mistake and ask for another ballot. This time they could vote for party B, and take another stemfie. The Electoral Law does not set a limit for the number of times a voter could claim to have made a mistake and ask for a new ballot, so in theory someone could continue until he has selfies with votes for all parties that contest the elections. That is something to think about for politicians before they fork over sponsor funds to whom they think are their voters.

There is of course a much simpler way to fool outsiders. Voters could take a picture of their ballot, and then use photo editing software to endlessly manipulate the image to make it look as if they voted for party A, B, C or any other party. It will not be visible to the naked eye – so there is an excellent opportunity for voters with a criminal mind to fool all parties and get the maximum bang for their buck. Please keep in mind that this is illegal.

In the meantime, we have not heard or seen anything definite about the so-called electoral reform our politicians have so lamely been asking for. Apparently it is not all that important. And anyway, the majority of our politicians are asleep at the wheel as a matter of fact; otherwise, they would have made some noise about the rules that apply now to them via the Electoral Council, say, four years ago. But all that time they did absolutely nothing, and now they have to lie down in the bed they made for themselves.

What about those stemfies? We foresee that they will become all the rage in St. Maarten as well. Theo Heyliger, William Marlin, Sarah Wescot-Williams and their staunchest supporters will all come out with the proof of their allegiance. Politicians who do not make a stemfie will be considered “so much twentieth century” by the social media generation and we figure that none of the candidates has any desire to be classified that way.

A ban on stemfies in St. Maarten before the August 29 elections may be a pipedream of some, but it is not something that is gonna happen. Forget it. Our politicians are still busy figuring out a way to ban plastic grocery bags (or a way to frustrate that legislation, that is a bit unclear at this moment), so do not expect them to suddenly become brilliant and write, discuss, approve and implement a piece of legislation that is from a technical point of view much more complicated.

A more direct method to frustrate voting fraud would probably be breaking up the long lines at the different party headquarters around the elections. That is where the corruption takes place in broad daylight and nobody has ever thought it useful to do something about it.

Let us therefore not get excited about electoral reform – in spite of all the talk and seemingly good intentions. Fooling people is a political gift, but there is a simple test to find out what is really going on. We have not used this formula lately, but that does not mean it has lost any of its validity.

Intention + Action = Result

These three variables offer an insight into the mind of politicians (and other decision makers like your wife, for instance).

The Intention variable represents what someone says she or he wants to do.

The Action variable represents the action someone undertakes to make Intention happen.

The Result variable represents, well, the result of the other two variables.

Therefore, if a friend says that he will be at your place at 2 p.m. and he does not show up (the Result) what does this tell you?

Very simple: your friend has been selling you a load of hogwash. He said he was going to be there, but he did not undertake the necessary action to make it happen. The Result never lies, but beware of Intention (or political promises) and the expected Action.

Politicians are full of promises, but one just has to look at the Result to know that they are either seriously lacking in the Action field or that they are just telling fairy tales.

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