The EC should reconsider its decision and allow the citizens to register their names in the voters roll from a convenient place
The Election Commission (EC) is all set to update the voters’ list from July 15. This would be done for holding the provincial and parliamentary elections that are supposed to be held within January 21 next year. The EC has urged all eligible voters who do not yet have their names on the voters’ list to register themselves within two weeks in their respective home district election offices. This decision was taken by the EC Commissioners with Chief Election Commissioner Ayodhi Prasad Yadav at the EC central office which has drawn a lot of flak. The EC has stated that they had decided to do so given the limited time they have to update the voters’ list. As per the EC provision, people would have to go to the district from where they had acquired Nepali citizenship certificates in order to have their names included in the voters’ roll.
One cannot understand why this provision was made as this would deter many voters from exercising their franchise which is their right in a democracy. This would affect many voters who are currently residing outside their home districts. This would mean that they would have to travel all the way to their respective districts in order to register their names in the voters’ list, which does not appear feasible for most people. Although there may be a compulsion for the EC to come forward with such a decision, but for the second Constituent Assembly polls held in 2013, the voters were allowed to register their names in a specific polling booth of a constituency from any part of the country. Those who do not register their names within the stipulated time would not be able to vote in the provincial and parliamentary elections.
Given the technological advancement it is still possible to allow the citizens to get their names registered with the EC from any district in the country. The EC’s argument of having limited time to upgrade new voters registration is unconvincing as it will take the same time even if one has to go to his/her home district to have their name registered with the EC. All voters rolls are centralised and processed and printed at the centre. Why cannot an eligible voter register his/her name in the voters roll from any convenient place or from the place where they are currently residing? It is also possible to adopt the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) as it had been used in some constituencies during the first CA election and even before that. EVM helps reduce time for counting votes. Meanwhile, those already registered in the voters’ roll would not be required to register again. The EC has given up to August 4 to receive complaints if any against the voting list. The commission has also given time to make amendments in the voting ID cards if there are any errors. In order to register their name in the voting list it is necessary to have citizenship certificates along with photos. The EC should reconsider its decision and allow the citizens to register their names in the voters roll from their convenient place.
It is shocking to know that around 21 percent votes cast in the Biratnagar Metropolis were declared invalid, largely because of low voter education campaign launched by the district election office. Of the total 113,000 registered voters a total of 80,477 voters had cast votes in the second phase of the local level election held on June 14, one month after the first phase. It was found that only 61,270 votes cast for the mayoral post for which 14 candidates were in the fray were valid while 19,217 votes were declared invalid.
Although the election office has blamed the political parties for making cross-party electoral alliances for such a large number of invalid votes, voter education drives were very low. Most people, especially women from the Madhesi community, were confused about the number of posts for which they were supposed to cast vote. The political parties are also to blame for high percentage of invalid votes as they did not reach out to the people telling about how to cast votes. It cannot be ruled out that the same will not be repeated in the Province-2 where election has been scheduled for September 18 unless effective voter education drive is launched there.
A version of this article appears in print on July 12, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.