€24 per voter – the 2022 general election expense
The 2022 general election has cost Maltese voters an average of €24.13 each with the overall bill exceeding €8.5 million. Compared to the 2017 general election when the respective cost per eligible voter was €16.73, this marks an increase of 49%.
This expense includes €1.93 million to finance the €90 Air Malta subsidised flights for those living abroad who were eligible to vote. To date there is no mechanism in place to allow voters living abroad to cast the ballot overseas. A total of 1,952 voters made use of this scheme, the majority of whom (535) came from London, followed by Brussels (23%). The remaining 24% came from other airports which are served by the national airline.
Details of the costs of the 2022 general election were divulged by the electoral commission in a report which was tabled in parliament. Two major differences compared to 2017 were the introduction of electronic counting and Covid-19 measures. While the introduction of electronic voting meant a new of expense of €116,253, the cost of Covid-19 measures such as sanitizing equipment was of €331,520.
A further analysis of the costs reveals that the biggest increase was incurred under the line item ‘utilities, operating supplies, repairs’ whereby expenses shot up from €74,798 in 2017 to €896,256 in 2022. However, no explanation was given for this eleven-fold increase. Other notable rises in expenditure were for the remuneration of assistant commissioners which went up by 39.% to €1.547 million, remuneration of temporary staff which rose by 72.1% to €1.922 million, contractual and professional services, hospitality and equipment which has more than doubled and reached €1.316 million, as well as transport whose costs soared by 31.2% to €467,000.
On the other hand, there were notable declines in the cost of office services which went down by 61.9% to €165,754 and information services whereby the expense fell by 83.1% to just €13,070.
In the 2022 general election there were 355,025 eligible voters of whom 304,050 cast their ballot. This election stood out for the relatively high number of invalid votes – 2.9% (up from 1.3% in 2017) – and the lowest turnout since Independence at 85.6%.
Contrary to the 2017 report, this time around the commission did not come up with any significant recommendation, saying it would be meeting party delegates to discuss possible improvements. Five years ago, the election watchdog had suggested using ID cards to vote to save the ordeal of printing and distributing voting documents. Another recommendation had been to extend the existing mechanism guaranteeing strict proportionality of the number of seats to first-count votes obtained, to the eventuality of having a third party in Parliament.