Two new booths to be introduced to maximize postal voters

In a bid to facilitate a maximum number of postal voters and to simplify the postal ballot process, the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) is coming up with postal ballot polling booth and mobile polling booth for the first time in the upcoming National Council elections this year.

Postal ballot polling, aka the facilitation booth, is a booth that would be setup to facilitate registered postal voters so that they can vote from the place they reside, while mobile polling booth is polling booth that would be set up for registered postal voters such as prisoners, long-term patients in hospital, and person living with disabilities.

However, to vote through the above two processes, one needs to be an eligible postal voter registered with the ECB. Eligible postal voters, according to section 331 of the Election Act, include diplomats or person working abroad, civil servants, armed forces, students and trainees, their spouses and family and any other specified by the ECB.

ECB’s Chief ICT Officer and also the head of the postal ballot unit, Namgay Tshering, said that learning through the experience from the past elections, the postal ballot was lengthy process whereby the rate of rejection of postal ballot was very high.

He said postal voters can now visit to the nearest facilitation booth from their place of residence, which will be setup all across the country.

“The postal voters will be directly hand-delivering the postal ballot packages. In the facilitation booth, the postal voters do not have to fill up the application form,” he said, adding that voters have to only fill up the Identity Declaration Certificate (IDC) form. He explained that for those who are not able to fill up the forms, it will be filled up by the presiding officer. “We will issue the pre-filled form,” he said.

A total of 64 facilitation booths will be setup across the entire country. Thimphu has the highest number with eight facilitation booths, while each Dzongkhag will at least have two facilitation booths. The facilitation booths will be opened eight days prior to the poll day and will be open for three days.

And for the mobile polling booth, a team from ECB will go to eligible postal voters comprising prisoners, long-term patients and people living with disabilities at institutions and associations. The team will conduct the balloting, collect and send them through post. Voters, however, have to carry their voter photo identity card.

Namgay Tshering said the ECB is trying facilitation booth on a pilot basis for council elections. “Depending upon the success and failure rate, we will think over it for the National Assembly elections,” he said, adding that facilitation booths would facilitate an increase in the number of voters. “We are targeting around 90 to 95% voter participations,” he said.

Meanwhile, the registration for postal ballot, which started from the December end last year, will remain open till February end.

The ECB also reminds eligible postal voters to register with ECB by filling up the forms that can be downloaded from the ECB’s website.

Dechen Dolkar from Thimphu