Kelzang Wangchuk | Nganglam

Considering the risk of the pandemic as Nganglam constituency in Pemagatshel is considered a high-risk area, the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) would implement mobile voting facility  from June 21 to June 25 for the June 29 bye-election.

The mobile voting booth would be facilitated in five of the 18 polling stations in the demkhong.

The five polling stations are in Arden, Yargyewoong, Yangmalashing, Namdaling, and Gashsri Bali. Nganglam throm would also be facilitated with a mobile voting booth.

Nganglam constituency’s returning officer (RO), Sonam Tobgyal, said that ECB is facilitating mobile voting to mitigate the risk of Covid-19 transmission in the community by avoiding gatherings during the poll day.

He said that the ECB also provides the mobile voting facility to far-flung villages in the demkhong with less than 100 voters, as people would face challenges to travel because of heavy monsoon and roadblocks. “We also provide mobile voting to people above 65 years.”

Sonam Tobgyal said the mobile voting facility could address the issue of limited polling officials, including security, as all are engaged in the Covid-19 duties.

He said ECB could not deploy officials from other places because of the weeklong quarantine mandate. “We do not deploy teachers this time because they are associated with students who were not vaccinated.”

The RO’s office would conduct training for the officials on mobile voting duty today and deploy the polling officials with the security officials to the five mobile voting stations tomorrow.

Officials sealed the electronic voting machines (EVM) on June 17.

Meanwhile, Druk Phuensum Tshogpa’s candidate, Rinchen Pelzang, raised concerns about mobile voting, reasoning there would be manipulation of votes.

He raised his concerns to the officials.

Although officials assured there wouldn’t be any manipulation, Rinchen Pelzang said there are chances of manipulating because officials would handle it for five days. “I requested the officials to declare the results at the end of each day, but officials said it is against the Election rules.”

Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa’s candidate, Karma Dorji, said he is convinced with the mobile voting facility, as it is for Covid-19 safety measures. “There is no issue of manipulating the votes because there is security.”

He said mobile voting facility is same as postal ballots and EVM, adding that they also have their representatives at the mobile voting booths. “It is a safety protocol at this time of the pandemic and we should not bring such thoughts to our mind.”

Sonam Tobgyal explained they cannot declare the votes at the end of each day, as it would become an exit poll that is against the Election Act of Bhutan.

He said people would also get demotivated and influenced if results are declared each day.

The RO said despite the briefings on the importance of such facility and submitting the undertaking, raising such issues would create unnecessary misunderstandings.

“In every stage of the electoral process, we have polling officials with security. The candidates also have their representatives at the booths. The EVMs and the ballots would be kept at the drungkhag office with full security in the presence of the candidates,” Sonam Tobgyal said.

Edited by Tashi Dema