Early morning, Sangay Dema, 45, prepares breakfast for her husband and three kids. After the meal and household chores, by the time its 9:30am, she wears her favorite kira (martha) and checks into her purse for her precious voter card. She is eager to cast her vote at the facilitation booth in Changjiji School in Thimphu, where she had voted during the National Council elections in April.
When Sangay reaches the facilitation booth, there are already hundreds others lined up to cast their vote too. After waiting for more than three hours, when her turn comes to vote, the officer at the polling booth tells her that her name is missing from the voter list. She requests the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) official to re-check but all her troubles have gone vain.
Now she must go to Mongar to cast her vote for at her constituency.
Sangay does not know what went wrong and how she got de-registered from the voter list but she said she will not be able to go to her home town due to financial issues.
“This glitch has cost me my vote,” she said.
Another voter, Tshering Dema from Trashiyangtse was surprised when the election official at the facilitation booth she had voted earlier told her that she must travel to her village to vote because her name was now deregistered.
Similarly, Gyeltshen Dukpa said waiting in line hours under the sun and at the end being informed that he was deregistered from voting was a huge disappointment.
Meanwhile, the Election Commission of Bhutan’s (ECB) Head of Postal Ballot unit, Namgay Tshering said it was difficult to pin point the exact reason why voters had become deregistered unless individual cases were reported and investigated.
“It could be a technical malfunction of the system,” he added.
As per postal ballot rules and regulations, registration of postal voters was completed before the election period on August 10. Any registration after the announcement of the elections is considered on a case-by-case basis only.
A notification from ECB was issued stating that voters who had registered for the National Council elections need not register again.
As per postal ballot rules and regulations, those eligible to vote through postal ballot are civil servants, their spouses and dependents. Students and trainees, diplomats, ambassadors and officials working abroad will also be eligible to vote through postal ballots.
Accordingly, the ECB has provided the postal ballot facility to not only Bhutanese overseas and those involved in the tourism and hospitality sector but also to some large private companies.
In the last National Council elections, a total of 88,915 public servants and students among others had registered as postal voters from the 20 dzongkhags.
In the upcoming NA elections, a total of 97,870 people have been registered for the postal ballot facilitation booth of 133,795 registered voters for postal ballot.
Tshering from Thimphu