With many postal voters experiencing “technical” glitches in emailing their postal ballot applications in the last couple of days, returning officers accepted emails that came to their alternative accounts until midnight.
With this, the opportunity to apply for postal ballot for the primary round of assembly elections comes to an end.
Some returning officers said they accepted applications until midnight, as per the instructions from the election commission yesterday.
“We were earlier notified that receiving of postal ballot applications should close by 5pm yesterday,” the returning officer of Bumthang’s Choekhor-Tang constituency, Ganesh Lama, said.
Compiling the postal ballot application, Ganesh Lama said, was difficult because of erratic power supply in Bumthang, besides the technical glitches in the official email account.
After postal voters complained that their email applications “bounced back”, returning officers in Dagana said they provided their personal email address after people called and complained.
“One of the main problems we faced was overloading of emails, as people sent their postal ballot applications not once but several times,” the Drujeygang-Tseza returning officer, Leki Tshering, said. “Some people have sent the same email 20 times.”
Sarpang’s Shompangkha returning officer, Wangchuk Thayey, said the official account worked until 2:50pm of May 7, and it got temporarily suspended.
“I gave my personal email account and downloaded about 100 postal ballot applications,” he said.
The official account, he said, was back last morning, but gave in after he downloaded about five postal ballot applications.
“While we have downloaded more than 900 postal ballot applications, more than 100 got rejected, as people, who did not register for postal ballot, also sent in their applications,” Wangchuk Thayey said.
In Trashigang, returning officers said capacity for the official email was low.
“It’s very difficult for us to accept the postal ballot applications and respond or acknowledge it,” Kanglung-Udzorong returning officer, Wangay Dorji, said. The constituency received more than 1,500 postal ballot applications.
In remote places like Panbang, with erratic internet connectivity and data card refusing to function, the returning officer was using telecom office at night to respond and download the postal ballot applications.
The returning officer, whose office was set up in the RNR centre, also had to shift his office to the dungkhag.
Meanwhile, election commissioner, Chogyal Dago Rigdzin, said the commission studied all the cases that were reported and an alternative email was provided to those who contacted the returning officers.
He explained that, at first, all the returning officers were using election commission-created Yahoo mail account.
He said, while most returning officers were not expected to handle more than 1,000 mails, the account had the capacity for more than 5,000 mails.
“With so many responsibilities in hand, the returning officers, who are very busy, have left sorting of emails to last hour,” he said.
This means there are unread mails, which reduces the capacity, thus rejecting the mails sent.
Chogyal Dago Rigdzin also said there were certain areas like Bumthang and Thrimshing with poor internet connectivity and erratic electricity, which was “beyond anyone’s control”.
Meanwhile, he explained that extension of deadline for postal ballot application receiving by returning officers was not possible, since a minimum of one week for returning officers to send postal ballot package to the voters.
A total of 79,698 postal voters were registered to vote by post.
However, for the council election, although there were 71,803 registered postal voters, at the end, only 23,967 postal ballots got counted at the end.
Lack of proper mailing address on the application, use of old voter photo identity card (VPIC), applications sent to wrong dzongkhags, were some of the reasons for applications getting rejected. More errors had led to disqualification of postal ballots at the end.
By Tashi Dema