The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) extended the registration date for conventional postal ballots facility till May 31 for the upcoming bye-election in Mongar and Nganglam demkhongs.

According to the election schedule, the last day for the postal ballot registration was yesterday.

ECB media spokesperson, Phub Dorji, who is also the head of the civic and electoral training department, said they would not accept registration from May 31 because of the time that was required for postal ballots to reach the office of returning officers. “If the postal ballots do not reach the office on time, then it becomes invalid.”

He said the registered voters from all sectors residing in other dzongkhags are provided with the conventional postal ballot facility. “It was facilitated to discourage intra-dzongkhag movement and thereby mitigate the risks of Covid-19.”

Phub Dorji said that voters could register for the postal ballots from dzongkhag election office.

He cited an example of how a registered voter from Mongar, who resides in Paro, could register for the postal ballot from the Paro election office. “As of now, ECB will go according to the plan with the poll day on June 29.”

He, however, said that there could be changes based on Covid-19 situation in the demkhongs. “We will have to act depending on the gravity of the situation.”

He also said deferment of the election would be the last resort in the current situation, adding that ECB was exploring the possibilities to provide mobile postal ballot facilitation booths (PBFB) for all registered voters in the two demkhongs.

The mobile PBFB allows voters to vote from locations or homes.  It is provided to voters above 65 years old and people with disabilities.

He also claimed if the election cannot be conducted in one demkhong because of the Covid-19 situation, the other demkhong would not be affected.

During the third thromde elections, although Phuentsholing was under a lockdown, ECB provided mobile PBFB for all the registered voters of the demkhong. “If the situation demands, Mongar and Nganglam demkhongs will be provided with the mobile PBFB,” Phub Dorji said.

He said returning officers are assessing the possibility of initiating the mobile PBFB.

There are five gewogs in Mongar demkhong and three gewogs in Nganglam demkhong.

Mongar’s returning officer, Mani Kumar Ghaley, said they are conducting claims and objection of the electoral rolls in the demkhong to determine whether a voter was included in the electoral roll or not.

“Registered voter residing elsewhere were asked to register for the postal ballots to reduce the risk of local transmission,” he said.

Nganglam’s returning officer, Sonam Tobgyal, said they are registering voters for conventional postal ballots.

He said that the office would strategise the voting options after checking the ground reality. “We will see how many places we can cover with the mobile PBFB and how many polling stations we need to set up.”

By Chhimi Dema

Edited by Tashi Dema