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MALTATODAY 9 January 2022

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2 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 9 JANUARY 2022 NEWS Electoral Commission proposes legal changes for drive-through voting in COVID election KURT SANSONE THE Electoral Commission is proposing the creation of drive-through mixed polling stations where COVID-19 pos- itive patients and people in quarantine will be able to vote. The proposal requires legis- lative changes since existing rules only allow mixed polling boxes in hospitals and old peo- ple's homes. Sources familiar with the pro- cess said agreement has been reached between the major po- litical parties on the process to be adopted to ensure the safety of electoral workers while en- suring people's right to vote is guaranteed. Chief Electoral Commission- er Joseph Camilleri would not confirm the proposal but told MaltaToday the commission has presented the government with a set of amendments to the General Elections Act. "If accepted, the amendments would, amongst others regulate the process whereby persons suffering from COVID-19 and those in quarantine as a result of the pandemic, would be able to cast their vote in a safe and secure manner," Camilleri said. He added there are no plans in the pipeline to introduce postal voting, a prospect float- ed by independent candidate Arnold Cassola. Last week, Cassola wrote to European Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders to ensure the vot- ing rights of Maltese people in quarantine are protected. A general election is due this year with the latest possible date being September. Camilleri said discussions with stakeholders, including the Public Health Superinten- dent, have been going on since last year. Each stage of the electoral process was evaluated so that preparations could get underway for the holding of an election during the pandemic. "The work done by the Elec- toral Commission in this re- gard is intended to ensure that the right of the voter to ex- press himself in secret through his vote is given effect to. The COVID-19 pandemic has cre- ated a challenging situation, but every effort is being done so that the over-riding princi- ple that the right of a voter to vote is sacred, is fully respect- ed," Camilleri said. The Electoral Commission is monitoring developments on a day-to-day basis, and will be in a position to consolidate and formally announce the relative arrangements when the elec- toral process gets under way, he added. Meanwhile, sources involved in the talks have told MaltaTo- day that drive-through voting would see voters remaining in their car while a runner dressed in protective gear would hand over the ballot sheet relative to the district in which the person is registered. The ballot would be placed in a mixed box since people from different electoral districts would be voting at the same booth, similar to what happens in hospitals. But talks have focussed on every step of the electoral pro- cess to ensure adequate safety protocols are introduced in line with recommendations from the health authorities. MATTHEW VELLA THE Nationalist Party has au- thored a Bill to introduce a Special Inquiring Magistrate to investigate corrupt practices and take criminal procedures against persons for corrupt practices. The proposal forms part of a swathe of anti-mafia style laws to create an office of anti-cor- ruption investigators. The Bill also introduces an "allegation of unlawful influ- ence" as a crime, punishing those who offer their services to others in a bid to procure the favours of a public officer, in a manner that would constitute a corrupt practice, with a con- viction of up to nine months' imprisonment. The role of Special Inquiring Magistrate will be hived off ex- clusively to a sitting court mag- istrate, whose sole job will be a six-year tenure to investigate corrupt practices only. The Special Inquiring Mag- istrate will not, during this period, be removed from such duties or be assigned to other duties unless he eases to be a magistrate. The special magistrate will carry out inquiries and investi- gations, reporting to the Speak- er of the House, and take crimi- nal action on corrupt practices. If the special magistrate re- fuses to institute proceedings, persons who filed a report will be empowered to petition to the Criminal Court to order the Special Inquiring Magis- trate to institute proceedings. The special magistrate will also be assigned an office of in- vestigators by the justice min- istry, apart from having the assistance of the police in the conduct of investigations. The special magistrate will al- so be able to initiate investiga- tions on his own initiative. Persons who refuse to comply when summonsed by the spe- cial magistrate will face fines and prison terms of up to three months. The special magistrate's re- port of the investigation will be transmitted together with a copy of transcripts to the Speaker of the House, which will also be laid on the table of the House when the magistrate concludes there is enough evi- dence to support a prosecution for corrupt practices. Charges will then be drawn up by the Commissioner of the Police. If a report concerning any corrupt practice is made to the police, they shall transmit the same to the Special Inquiring Magistrate; any ongoing cor- ruption investigations by the police will also be continued by the special magistrate. The Bill includes pardons that may be granted by the Presi- dent of Malta. The President may "if acting in accordance with his own de- liberate judgement he is satis- fied of the advisability so to do" issue a certificate in writing ex- empting any person from any criminal proceedings, on con- dition that such person gives evidence according to law of all the facts known to him relating to any corrupt practice. Such exemptions can only take place after a request to that effect by the Special In- quiring Magistrate. Another Bill presented by Grech yesterday defines as a crime the "partnership, promo- tion, leadership of a mafia-like criminal association." The crime carries a term of imprisonment of between 10 to 15 years, with chief organisers liable to anything between 12 to 18 years. Special anti-corruption Special inquiring magistrate will be tasked to lead anti-corruption investigations with dedicated unit of investigators

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