Whispering the name of his preferred candidate into the ears of his teacher, Thinley Dorji, a student of Muenselling Institute in Khaling cast his postal ballot for the National Council elections at the institute yesterday.
Thinley Dorji who is a low-vision (partially blind) student at the institute chose one of his teachers as his trusted companion. The companion in presence of the presiding officer assists visually impaired voters to cast their ballots.
Dawa Yangchen, 19, who is also a low-vision student, was next in line. “I’m excited since this is my first time voting. But I’m also scared because I might vote for the wrong person,” she said.
She also chose one of her teachers as a companion. “Everything went well. I voted for my candidate of choice.”
The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) provided a mobile postal ballot facilitation booth for people with special needs for the first time this year.
The special needs group included the differently-abled, inmates and quarantined medical patients.
In Trashigang, the mobile postal ballot facilitation booth service was provided at Lungzor prison and Muenselling institute.
On April 12, of the 54 registered voters at the Lungzor prison, 48 inmates cast their votes.
Election officials said that of the total registered, two inmates were released on the date of voting. Four did not want to vote.
At Muenselling Institute, all 10 registered cast their votes yesterday. Seven voters used the help of a companion.
Kuenga Chhogyel, 52, who is a teacher at the institute also voted with the help of a companion. “I’ve voted in all the past elections including the two local government elections but this was the most reliable system made available for people with disabilities like us.”
He said that he had certain doubts about the previous system of postal ballot.
“I was doubtful if the ballots would reach its destination on time and also if I had followed all the procedures correctly,” Kuenga Chhogyel said. “There were news of postal ballots not reaching the destination on time and several postal ballots being rejected.”
He said that the mobile facilitation service was particularly important for people who are differently-abled.
“This initiative ensures everyone’s vote is counted,” he said. “It’s a great initiative since every vote is a gift from the throne to the people and it should not be wasted.”
However, there were few students who were not aware of their candidates.
Choki Wangchuk, 19, who also has a low vision, said he was not sure whom to vote for. “I have not heard any of their pledges. But I’m excited since this will be my first time voting,” he said.
Younten Tshedup | Khaling