To ease the voting process, the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) will set up about 64 postal ballot facilitation booths for the upcoming National Council elections across the country.
Training coordinator with ECB, Gem Tshewang, said that this added facility to the conventional system is to facilitate voters. “Postal ballot facilitation booth has less room for mistakes.”
During an awareness session on the postal ballot facility, Gem Tshewang said that facilitation booths would be set up eight days prior to the polling day. “Facilitation booths will be open for three days until the sixth day prior to the polling day.”
He said that the remaining five days until the polling day is meant for distributing the postal ballot packages to all Returning Officers.
Voters willing to avail postal ballot services have to fulfill the complete process of registration, application, and voting.
To register for postal ballot facilitation services, a voter needs to go to the ECB website at www.ecb.bt and select the dzongkhag the voter resides in.
The forms are customised for every dzongkhag as the location of the postal ballot facilitation booth would differ. Thimphu, at eight, has the highest number of facilitation booths.
In the registration form, a voter needs to give details of his/her permanent address, and occupation. Depending on the choice of postal ballot facility, the voter would either have to provide a postal address (in case of traditional postal ballot system) or choose a location suitable to them.
Registration forms would have to be returned either to the Human Resource Officer or focal persons or the nearest Dzongkhag Election Office. Voters can also submit the form through mail. They can call toll free number at 2008 for more information.
Civil servants, the armed forces, trainees, students and officials on election duty could cast postal votes through the facilitation booth while voters with special needs such as long term hospital patients, differently-abled persons and prisoners could cast votes through mobile facilitation booth.
Citizens who reside overseas, and in remote areas can cast votes through Bhutan Post. Groups specified by ECB are eligible for postal ballot services.
Postal voters voting through the facilitation booths are not required to apply for the ballots as they are present in person to cast votes but have to register to avail the facilities.
Gem Tshewang said that the introduction was to increase voter turnout by ensuring all registered postal voters cast their votes.
In the 2013 election, about 70,000 Postal Ballots (PB) were registered while ECB received only about 40,000, of which 30,000 ballots were issued.
From around 9,000 ballots, about 6,000 were applied without registering while others were due to missing detail.
Currently, ECB found mistakes in the registration forms, Gem Tshering said. “Details such as the identity card numbers and phone numbers were found to be missing or were incorrect. Some had provided e-mail addresses but not many respond to e-mail.”
He said people knew their respective dzongkhags but got the names of the gewogs incorrect, adding that while validating the information in the registration form, phone numbers were unreachable.
In addition to awareness campaigns, he said that ECB officials go to every office but attendance has been poor.