Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) has registered 97,000 voters for the postal ballot (PB) facility as of  yesterday.

The head of postal ballot unit of ECB, Namgay Tshering, said that there would be 65 PB facilitation booths across the country and 13 mobile booths.

A total of 59,749 people had registered to vote at postal ballot facilitation booths in the National Council (NC) election earlier this year, which included public servants and students, and constituted 67 percent of 88,915 registered postal voters from the 20 dzongkhags.

Namgay Tshering said that the last date to register for postal ballot has not been finalised yet.

“We would be able to fix the closing date only after the notification calling the elections is issued by the commission,” he said.

“While most booths will be open from 9am to 5pm for three days, the mobile booths will be open for the same timing but only for a day,” Namgay Tshering said.

The booths will open five days before the poll day.

The advantage with the facilitation booths is that there is minimum rejection of the ballots.

“That’s why we encourage voters to opt for this facility,” he said.

In Thimphu, the mobile booth facility is extended to graduates appearing the civil service examination who are expected to vote at the youth and sports department compound, those attending the National Graduate Orientation

Programme, and the JDWNRH staff including those patients residing at the Kidu guest house in the hospital compound.

On the voting day, 47 ballot boxes, one for every constituency, will be placed at each booth. The boxes would be then sealed in presence of the polling officials, independent observers, security personnel, and handed over to the Bhutan Post official who will also witness the packaging of the boxes.

PB facilitation booth is cheaper compared to the conventional PB. Each conventional postal ballot costs the ECB Nu 180, but the PB facilitation booth ballots cost Nu 90.

Individual businessmen or those from the private sector, who don’t qualify as PB voters, have to apply to the commission to avail of the facility and would be considered on case by case basis.

“Businesses that have to operate on poll day such as hotels, and taxi drivers are extended the facility,” Namgay Tshering said.

On August 2, the public notification on the release of  the draft electoral roll and the draft postal voters’ list asked eligible voters to verify and ensure that they are included in the electoral roll and the postal voters’ list and that their details were correctly reflected in it.

If there are any discrepancies, the individuals have to report to the respective dzongkhag electoral office before August 12.

The Draft Postal Voters List can be viewed in the respective dzongkhag electoral office, the Election Commission’s Head office in Kawangjangsa or at the Election Commission’s website www.ecb.bt

Once finalised, he said that the list of PB voters would not be revised for general elections.

“If an individual wants to go to the constituency to vote on electronic voting machine, then he has to deregister as a PB voter at the dzongkhag electoral office or the ECB headquarter,” ECB spokesperson, Sonam Tobgay, said.

The registered voters who qualify for postal ballot are diplomats and persons working in the embassies abroad, those residing outside Bhutan for the performance of a special government duty, members of the Armed Forces, civil servants and the spouses of and dependents of individuals in these categories if the spouse or dependent is residing with them, students and trainees, and any other group of voters as specified by the Commission in consultation with the government.

In areas where there is large number of Bhutanese, the commission formally appoints a representative to whom the ballots are sent. “The individual distributes them to the registered persons and then collects them and sends them to ECB,” Namgay Tshering said.

However, an individual can choose to receive and post the ballot in the conventional style but has to bear the costs.

Tshering Palden