Twenty-six voters of one of the most remote villages in the country, Esuna in Lunana, Gasa will walk for two days to cast their votes at Rakashong polling station today.

Given the remoteness of the village, the election commission, as has been the practice, pays Nu 500 a day to Esuna residents to walk to the polling station and vote on poll day.  The village has 28 registered voters including two postal voters.

Rakashong is officially five days walk from the dzongkhag headquarters in Gasa. The voters of Esuna will vote with the 60 voters of Ramina village who have migrated with their herd to Rakashong.

The 26 voters of Esuna, Gasa will join the thousands of voters across the country today to choose the two political parties that will go on to form the third elected government. The Polls will be preceded by the National Anthem in all polling stations.

Four registered political parties, Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party, Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa, Druk Phuensum Tshogpa and People’s Democratic Party are contesting the second primary round of the third parliamentary elections.

Excluding the security personnel and election commission’s regular staff, a total of 5,250 election officials have been deployed on election duty, the election commission’s state of readiness report states. The commission has set up 865 polling stations across the country to conduct the polls today. Of this, 141 are temporary polling stations set up in places where there is no appropriate public infrastructure.

The registered voters in the 47 national assembly demkhongs in 20 dzongkhags, the polling teams in 865 polling stations, 49 offices of the returning/ assistant Returning officers and the ECB head Office are all set to conduct the polls today, the commission’s report states.

“The election machinery is in state of readiness to conduct the polls for our historic elections,” Chief Election Commissioner Chogyal Dago Rigdzin said. “All polling teams have arrived at the 865 polling stations across the nation. We are confident and look forward to the participation of all voters in the exercise of the most precious gift: Your Vote!”

A total of 438,663 (224,555 -female and 214,113 -male) are registered as voters as of July 1, the qualifying date for the National Assembly Elections. Of the total, 133,759 had registered as postal voters.  The commission has commissioned and distributed 1,730 EVMs with a spare EVM each to all polling stations.

Trashigang has the highest number of registered voters at 47,614 while the lowest is in Gasa at 2,064.

On the eve of the poll day, the chief election commissioner presents the state of readiness report to the nation, the spokesperson and head of election department Sonam Tobgyal said.

He said the commission tests the SMS system to assess the connectivity of the SMS gateway system. All presiding officers are connected to the SMS system where they report every two hours on the voter turn out at the polling stations.  The two-hourly voter turnout reports would be uploaded on the commission’s website and the digital display board on the Democracy House.

“The facilitation core group comprising of 20 officials has been set up to monitor each dzongkhag,” Sonam Tobgyal said. “The national result centre has also been established.”

The commission has set up the centralised electoral management system (BERMS) for inclusive and error free electoral roll, ERSS for speeding up the polling process at the polling stations and SMS gateway with mobile apps for faster and efficient result consolidation and management.

With monsoon still on, incessant rainfall over the past few days had caused landslides and blocked roads.

Swollen rivers cut off the roads between Lhamoidzingkha and Karmaling gewog in Dagana and officials for two polling stations had to return and could not reach the stations on September 13. Election officials said that with the deployment of excavators yesterday morning, the officials have reached their respective polling stations safely.

In Gasa, the polling teams for Lunana polling station were transported through helicopter services on September 9. ECB said that an official in the Lunana polling team needed to be treated for altitude sickness and is reported to be in stable condition even as bad weather hampered their evacuation arrangement.

Gasa dzongdag Dorji Dhradhul said they were lucky to have deployed the team to Lunana early. “The weather condition was bad for the past few days but by then our team of officials were already in station,” he said.

For this election, the dzongkhag administration, he said, took the polling station closer to the residents of Esuna, which is in Rakashong. “Earlier they had to walk to Raminang or Wachey, which is three to four days walk.” With 27 voters, Wachey polling station has the least number of registered voters in the country.

Since the residents of Raminang village have migrated with their herd to Rakashong, the election office has shifted the polling station there. “We have to cater to the needs of the voters,” an election officer said.

Sonam Pelden