The 2018 national Assembly election has already started. Thousands of Bhutanese have already exercised their franchise last week, as they cast their ballot through the facilitation and mobile booths.

The numbers are impressive and encouraging. A voter turnout of 77.55 percent is a good indication. In numbers, out of the 102,531 people who registered to use the facilities, 79,515 came out to vote. Looking at the past records, 77.55 percent is a good score even though it is only the vote cast through the facilitation booths.

Numbers matter in election, not only for political parties but for the good of democracy. The more people vote, the more represented a government becomes. With four political parties contesting, the people have the choice this time. It is expected that a lot more will come to exercise their constitutional right, a sacred responsibility, as we say.

The bulk of the eligible voters will vote on the poll day, September 15. The turnout will affect the final turnout percentage. From the facilitation booth experience, we can see a trend. As expected more women are turning out to vote even though there are fewer women candidates contesting. Another expected, but discouraging trend is the turnout in urban places.

The urbanites, the so-called educated, well-informed lot, are not living up to the expectations. The capital city with the highest number of registered voters saw the least turnout at 70.88 percent. It is a shame that there is apathy among the urbanites. Remote Lhuentse saw a 91.89 percent turnout. The registered voter number may differ, but it is an indication of indifference to the process among the urbanites.

From last week’s numbers, more than 20,000 people have missed their chance, unless some of them were not registered and still has the chance to vote. The Election Commission of Bhutan has made it convenient for people to exercise their rights by initiating the facilities. There is not much they can do.

For the remaining eligible voters, there is time to decide and make up to participate in the electoral process. Some feel that one vote will not matter. Elections come only once in five years. There is a chance to make a difference and thinking that one vote doesn’t matter is like saying “I don’t matter.” We should choose to matter.

With rumours of coercion and persuasion, some could decide not to vote at all. For this group, it is important to know that ours is secret ballot system. In other words, whom you vote is your secret. Nobody would know whom you voted for.

Meanwhile, a large number of voters would have already decided. Some would have assessed the parties or candidates, some would have been convinced by political rallies and some would have listened to their relatives or fellow villagers. While coming out to vote is important, more important is understanding the purpose of voting. The decision should be informed and a reasoned one and not based on any other factors.