With a closer election race expected for the 2013 elections every vote including postal ballot votes will count.
According to the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) Register-Apply-Vote (RAV) is the correct process for electorates to vote through a postal ballot.
To vote by post, one needs to be on the electoral register by registering with ECB. Then filling in a postal vote application form, one can apply to vote by post. After completing the form, one needs to print it, sign it, and send it back to local electoral registration office only when ECB appoints its returning officers. By the end of the process, voting is the last step.
The ECB found that a majority of Postal ballot voters tended to skip the ‘application’ step from the R-A-V process.
“It happened in many of the senior officials’ case and many other voters living both inside and outside of the country. They all just registered but did not apply for the postal ballot,” said a source in ECB.
The number of postal ballots within the country may become lesser in 2013 as there will be more polling stations than before.
In the case of incumbent Member of Parliament Tshering Dorji from DPT postal ballots played a pivotal role in his win. He explained that the role of postal ballot playing a major role is ‘definite’. “Through Electronic Voting Machine I had lost but postal ballot votes made me the winner in the 2008 elections,” said MP Tshering Dorji. He also stressed that ‘postal ballot’ education is very important as well.
In 2008 the importance of the postal ballots was that in some constituencies it made winners out of losers, and losers out of winners.
Under Election Act’s provision, ‘the commission could consider case by case on who could vote through post’.
Meanwhile, there are postal ballot education campaigns going on inside and outside the country. Election officers have been deployed to educate and facilitate Bhutanese people living in New York, as of now.
According to the ECB the right to vote through postal ballot is a privilege extended mainly to electorates having genuine and critical cases.
In 2008 ECB received 20,992 and 30,321 postal ballot applications for National Council (NC) and National Assembly (NA) respectively. 12,200 NC and 10,170 NA postal ballot applications were rejected.
A big winner through postal ballots was National Council’s, Dasho Dr (PhD) Sonam Kinga.
Tashi Tshering had won the election by 159 votes over Sonam Kinga. But later, when the 794 postal ballot votes were counted, 539 were found in favor of Sonam Kinga who won by 252 votes.
DPT won all the postal ballot votes in all 47 constituencies. Overall, DPT secured 77.8% (13,320) of the total postal ballot votes and the PDP secured 22.2% (3,799) of the postal ballot votes.
Postal ballot votes constituted 3% (4,727 votes) and 7% (17,119 votes) of the total votes cast in the NC and NA respectively. It was a small number but given the voters’ small population in constituencies, postal ballot votes were crucial and important in deciding outcomes.
A rough estimate of eligible postal ballot voters exceeded 50,000, excluding private companies and agencies in 2008.
Civil servants alone accounted for 20,000. Others were students, armed forces and others. In 2008 it was evident that the postal ballot facility was not properly utilized as many of those who attempted using it, found their applications rejected; 58% postal ballot applications were rejected in the NC election and 33.6% were rejected in NA election. The majority (60%) of postal ballot applicants was not listed in the postal ballot; 10% did not have valid return addresses, the rest did not have VPIC number of applicants.
Puran Gurung / Thimphu