ECB’s prudent measures could save the government millions

Rinzin Wangchuk

Without compromising the quality and efficiency of conducting the elections, the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) could save millions with its cost-saving measures.

Not printing the voter photo identity cards (VPICs) could save the commission Nu 7.386 million. The commission has discontinued issuing VPIC cards since  the recent National Council (NC) and third local government elections. A voter with a valid citizenship identity card  could cast his vote without the VPIC. The move  resulted in significant savings, according to officials from the commission.

Recognising the importance of VPIC for exercising the right to vote in Bhutan’s elections, the ECB began issuing voter cards from the first parliamentary elections in 2008. Acknowledging that both electoral rolls and VPICs are crucial components for conducting free and fair elections, the ECB tasked the Department of Electoral Registration and Delimitation to facilitate the enrollment of interested and eligible voters’ names in the electoral roll and ensure convenient and prompt VPIC distribution.

Voters could vote with a valid CID card thus saving the cost of printing and distributing thousands of VPICs.

The commission advises voters to present original valid CIDs or VPICs at polling stations. “They can bring either CIDs or VPICs issued earlier,” an official said, adding that photocopies or soft copies will not be accepted.

The CID or VPIC is used for identifying voters at polling stations on the poll day.  The commission also urges all voters who have either lost their CID cards or have not yet processed and obtained them to apply for new ones immediately to avoid last-minute rushes or inconveniences. Similarly, in the case of those with CID cards whose validity has expired, it is a reminder that such voters must apply for new cards at the earliest.

As of January 1, 2023, the final electoral roll for the third NC elections listed a total of 485,811 voters, comprising 249,071 females and 236,740 males.

Considering the total number of eligible voters, those above 18, for the 2018 National Assembly elections, the ECB would have issued a total of 438,663 VPICs since 2008.

Reduced polling stations

Another cost-cutting measure was from the reduction of polling stations, attributed to improved road access and network connectivity, according to Chief Election Commissioner, Dasho Sonam Topgay. “We reduced the  polling stations from 866 to 811 across the country,” he said.

During elections, ECB spends about Nu 72,000 for each polling station, covering travel and daily allowances for presiding officers, polling officers, and security personnel. Reducing 55 polling stations means the  ECB could save aboutNu 3.92M, according to the commission.

Meanwhile, the ECB returned Nu 73.411M to the government from the allocated budget ofNu 257.992M for the recent National Council elections. Expenditures were significantly lower than in the 2018 NC elections, indicating effective cost management. ECB spent Nu 167.077M in 2023 compared with the Nu 245.844M spent in the 2018 NC elections.

Additionally, the ECB saved Nu 162M from the third local government elections. Altogether, the ECB saved about Nu 254M from the election expenditures.