The number of people who turned out to attend voter education programme in Tsirang was poor, according to election officials in Tsirang.

Officials said that only 1,716 people attended the programme after they completed the programme in 60 chiwogs.

Officials say voter education is much beyond knowing how to press the electronic voting machine (EVM) and emphasised that voters should consider the programme important.

The dzongkhag’s electoral officer, Kibu Zangpo, said besides informing voters about the voting process, electoral democracy and need of gender equality in elective offices, voter education programme has been identified as a critical factor in enhancing more voter participation in elections.

“People consider such programmes not important and do not attend,” he said.

The highest number of people who attended the programme was in Semjong gewog, where 244 attended the education programme, followed by 189 in Doonglagang, 163 in Kilkhorthang, 146 each in Tsirangtoed and Mendrelgang.

At least 144 attended the programme in Patshaling, 138 in Rangthaling and 118 in Sergithang. In Barshong 112 people turned up, 109 in Gosarling and 108 voters turned up in Tsolingkhar.

The least participation, according to the officials, was in Phungtenchuu gewog where only 99 people came forward to attend.

Meanwhile, Kibu Zangpo said that for the programme, six teams were formed to cover the 60 chiwogs and three schools in over two weeks between July 18 and August 7. “At least 2,000 students attended the programme.”

He said that in a special programme, the election officials also took voter education to village level to reach the unreached.  “Over 1,000 were reached through the special programme.”

Kibu Zangpo said that a high level of illiteracy is considered a contributing factor to low levels of knowledge on electoral process among the general voters, particularly in remote places.

“It is important to make voter education available and accessible to all citizens to educate them on electoral-related information and to understand their role in the election,” he said.

The election officer also said that voters need information on registration, election campaign, polling process as well as on the record and platforms for candidates and parties in order to participate effectively in the election.  “Voter education programme is a platform to receive complete information and knowledge on the election.”

He said that an issue that comes up during every election is voters turning up to vote with their citizenship identity card or with invalid voter photo identity cards (VPIC) or going to a wrong polling station.   “This is one of the important aspects the voter education programme covers. Voters are reminded to verify their registration and electoral roll on time.”

In a move to reach the disabled group of voters in Tsirang, the electoral officials are in the process of registering them for the mobile facilitation booth for the upcoming National Assembly election.

According to figures with the election office, there are at least 244 disabled voters, who are 18 years and above. However, type of disability and their eligibility of vote are yet to be confirmed.

Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang