Everything else.. Voting to Win: A Guide to the 2019 Sri Lankan Presidential Election

Voting to Win: A Guide to the 2019 Sri Lankan Presidential Election

2019 Nov 6

Election Day falls on November 16th, 2019. Here’s everything you need to know before heading to the polling station.


How does a candidate win and why do the second and third preferences matter?


The law of the country upholds that the winner of the Presidential Election has to win over half of the valid votes that have been cast. Simply put, this means that he/she has to obtain 50% + 1 of the total votes. In the elections held so far, since 1982 to 2015, the winner has always received more than 50% of the total votes in the first round of counting.

However, there remains a distinct possibility that no party receives over 50% of the votes. If such an event arises, the two candidates with the highest number of votes in the first count will be selected for a second round of counting while all other candidates are eliminated. If voters have selected any of the two main candidates as their second or third preference, their votes will be transferred to the respective main candidate. Subsequently, the candidate with more than 50% of the votes following the second round of counting will be declared the winner.

Since this year’s election is a close competition and if the accumulated votes of all other candidates apart from the main candidates amount to 500,000 – 1,000,000 there is a high likelihood of no party receiving more than 50% of the votes, according to Rohana Hettiarachchi, Executive Director of Peoples Action for Free and Fair Election (PAFFREL). Therefore, it would be beneficial if voters mark their second and third preferences in the ballot paper as well.


What do I need to bring with me to the polling station?

It is mandatory for every voter to carry one of any valid identity document. Preferably, this would include your National Identity Card (NIC) and official poll card.

Apart from the National Identity Card (NIC), other documents that have been approved by the Elections Commission are:

  • A valid passport
  • A valid driving license
  • A senior citizens identity card
  • A government pensioner’s identity card
  • An identity card issued to clergy
  • A temporary identity card issued by the Election Commission through the Grama Niladhari


What is the voting process?

Your polling card will indicate the polling station that you are required to go to in order to cast your vote. It is usually a place that is close to the address you registered with. Once you enter the polling station, the voting process will take place as follows:


How do I cast my vote at the voting booth?

After the third officer applies indelible ink around your little finger and provides the ballot paper, head to the covered cubicle and mark your preference(s). Once you do so, fold your ballot paper into two or four and put it into the ballot box. 


How do I mark my preference?

There are two correct ways to mark your preference on the ballot paper.

  1. Voting for one candidate.

This is done by marking either an “X” or the digit “1” next to the name of the candidate on your ballot paper.

  1. Casting your vote by ranking your first, second and third preferences.

Vote for your most preferred candidate by marking “1” on your ballot paper. Next, mark “2” and “3” for your second and third preferred candidates respectively.

Important: Ensure that you read the candidates’ names carefully since there are 35 names on this year’s ballot and their names and/or symbols may look similar.


Is it compulsory to mark all three preferences?



How do I ensure that my vote does not get rejected?

  1. Apart from an “X” or the 3 digits, do not draw/write anything irrelevant on the ballot paper
  2. Do not mark “X” or “1” for more than one candidate
  3. Do not mark second (“2”) or third (“3”) preferences without marking your first preference
  4. Do not mark more than three preferences
  5. Do not mark “X” to one candidate and “1” to another
  6. Do not cast an empty ballot paper into the box

All of us as Sri Lankans are bestowed with a constitutional right and a privilege to cast our votes at this November’s Presidential Election. Consider this special right as your civic responsibility to use your voice and make your vote count.