The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) will dispatch postal ballots to overseas voters through Bhutan Post today for the general election slated for October 18.
The ECB expects the postal ballots to reach the registered voters latest by October 1 so that ballots can reach the office of the respective returning officers on time. Postal ballots must reach the returning officers latest by October 17.
“We start with the furthest first. Overseas postal ballots are sent first so that there is time for the ballots to reach the respective offices of returning officers,” head of ECB’s postal ballot unit, Namgay Tshering, said.
The ECB, he said, would reach the overseas postal ballots today to Bhutan Post and that they would be dispatched to respective voters as soon as possible.
With the number of postal voters increasing every election, postal ballots have been critical in deciding election outcomes. Registered postal voters consist of about 30 percent of the total registered voters of 438, 663.
However, election officials admit that the lack of timely receipt of overseas postal ballots by the respective returning officers has been a major problem and that some of the postal ballots from overseas voters reach Bhutan after the poll day. Kuensel learnt that a bag of overseas postal ballots reached Bhutan Post after the polls.
He said that the ECB has identified authorised focal officers in various places abroad to facilitate timely collection and dispatch of overseas postal ballots.
He said that the number of overseas postal ballots increased from about a few hundreds to few thousands after the appointment of focal officers. There are 3,568 registered overseas postal ballot voters according to the primary round figures.
The overseas voters, Namgay Tshering, said could get back to ECB by October 1 if the overseas voters find mistakes with the ballot. He said that the voters should post the ballots as soon as possible so that they reach the returning office on time.
Such focal officers are placed in Bhutanese embassies and in places like Canberra, Australia where a large number of Bhutanese reside. ECB pays for postal charges for dispatching postal ballots to the voters.
The overseas voters need not bear the postal charge if they dispatch their ballots through the focal officers, who dispatch the ballots to Bhutan in bulk. However, the individual voter has to pay the postal charge if he/she posts it individually.
“Bhutanese living in a same locality abroad must submit their ballots to the focal person for convenient and timely delivery,” Namgay Tshering said.
The last date for receipt of application for changes related to postal ballots ended on September 24.
Slightly over 81 percent of the total 133,795 registered postal voters cast their votes in the recently concluded primaries. However, he said some of the registered postal ballot deregistered from postal voters to EVM voters. The number of people who deregistered is being compiled.
In the primaries, some of the voters turned up in EVM booths only to find out that they had been registered as postal voters. Namgay Tshering cited civil servants and those eligible for postal ballots registering on behalf of their spouses as possible reasons for the voters being unaware of registered as postal voters.
The ECB will operate postal ballot facilitation and mobile booths on October 10, 11 and 12.
The ECB, he said, would ensure that postal ballots for facilitation booths reach the returning officers by October 8.