As the postal ballot facilitation booths ceased operation at 7pm on September 12, Punakha saw voter turnout of 81.24 percent, more by eight percent from the primary round of the elections.
Lingmukha-Toedwag’s returning officer, Kinley Dorji, said voter turnout was good this time because the office of the returning officer in Punakha had personally called all the registered postal voters who did not come to vote during the primary round. “We also conducted voter education in institutions and organisations.”
Of a total of 2,518 registered facilitation booth voters, 2,045 turned up to cast their ballots at the Barp gewog centre and Khuruthang Technical Training Institute (TTI) in Punakha from September 10 to 12.
Khuruthang TTI has 1,830 registered voters, of which 1,467 voters, including 820 female voters cast their ballots.
The facilitation booth located at the Barp gewog centre saw 287 male and 291 female voters cast their ballots. The booth has 688 registered voters.
Unlike in the National Council elections, the operation of the facilitation booths during the primary and general round of the National Assembly elections was from 9am to 7pm.
Presiding officer at the Khuruthang TTI, Karma Wangmo, said that the closing time of the facilitation booths was extended from 5pm to 7pm considering the convenience of the office goers.
“The voters, be they office goers or those who need to be at work during the daytime, can come and vote after they finish their work,” she said.
A corporate employee in Punakha, Karma Dorji, came to vote after 5pm at the Khuruthang TTI. He said that over the years, the Election Commission of Bhutan had made the election process easy and convenient for everyone including the voters.
“Making the voting process convenient would encourage more participation in the political process which is always desirable,” Karma Dorji said.
Three minutes to 7pm, a 30-year-old man from Samtse, Avinash Rai, entered the gate of Khuruthang TTI. The last voter at the facilitation booth left the room at 7pm sharp with the Voter Photo Identity Card (VPIC).
“I live in Bajo in Wangdue but I am registered here so I rushed to cast my ballot after my work. I am glad I made it on time,” he said with a smile.
The three facilitation booths in Wangdue saw 5,455 of the 6,392 registered facilitation booth voters turn up to cast their ballots.
Wangdue saw a voter turnout of 85. 34 percent, one percent increase from the primary round election last month.
Bajo Higher Secondary School (HSS) has the highest registered voters at 4,002. Of 3,367 who turned up to cast their ballot at Bajo in the last three days, 1,943 were female.
The facilitation booth in Bjimithang, which has 1,956 registered voters, saw 796 female and 958 male voters cast their ballots.
Another facilitation booth at Gangtey gewog centre saw 334 voters (153 male and 181 female) cast their votes. The centre has 434 registered voters.
Voters in Wangdue said that the facilitation booth service made participating in the election process convenient.
Athang-Thedtsho’s returning officer in Wangdue, Tshering Penjor, said that during the primary round of the election last month, many rushed to the facilitation booths on the first day to cast their votes. This caused inconvenience to the voters as they had to wait for hours to cast their ballots. “Some thought that just like the poll day, the facilitation booths would be operating only for a day while some thought the voting is based on first come first basis and the voters coincided at the booths at the same time.”
He said that this time, the office of the returning officer informed the institutions that have large number of registered facilitation booth voters like Samthang Technical Training Institute, Royal Bhutan Army, and Punatsangchhu Hydropower Project that the facilitation booths would operate for three days until 7pm.
“We continued to create awareness and as a result, we had almost the same number of voters coming to vote at the facilitation booths daily for the three days,” he said. “This made the process convenient for everyone.”
Dechen Tshomo | Punakha