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Posting council votes

Postal voters, who couldn’t make it past the application phase, can still vote at respective polling stations

Bhutanese voters have started casting or rather, posting, their votes for the second National Council elections, which will witness its poll day on April 23.

This is being done by those among the over 31,500 registered postal voters, who have successfully managed to apply for postal ballot to the respective returning officers positioned in the districts.

These individuals from across the country received their postal ballot package a few days ago, after the deadline for postal ballot application ended on April 3.

While some have already picked their council candidate and sent the ballots back to the returning officers, a few, who have confirmed that their applications are accepted, are yet to receive their postal ballot.

Meanwhile, those voting by post comprise around 8 percent of the total voters for the council election.

Initially, election commission saw 71,803 registered postal voters.  The facility was extended to civil servants, armed forces, Bhutanese working in embassies outside, their spouses and dependents, students and trainees, and also to those living in the United States.

However, the returning officers received around 40,700 applications.

In scrutinising the applications, the officers had found that around 3,000 individuals, who were not even registered as postal voters had sent in applications, which returning officers could not consider.

Some of the postal ballot applications were also turned down since they had inadequate details.  Most didn’t have proper mailing address.  The voters had, in place of mail address, gone for email address.

There were others, who used the old voter identity card number in place of the new one, which was the citizenship card number.

While some didn’t have the “competent witness” they produced as registered voter, there were also cases where applications were sent to the wrong dzongkhags.

As such, around 9,000 of those, who had applied, couldn’t secure postal ballot.

71,803 – registered postal voters

40,701 – applications received

31,592 – applications accepted

6,105 – applications for Trashigang, the highest

97 – for Gasa, the lowest

20,992 – applications received for the first council election

4,742  – postal ballots counted

But this, in no way, marks an end to their opportunity to make their vote count.  Those postal voters, who couldn’t get their application through, can still go to the polling stations on the poll day to vote.

However, those postal voters who have their applications accepted should sincerely pursue their postal ballot. Upon acceptance, their names would be struck from the electoral roll. This means they would not be allowed to vote from the polling station with the understanding that the person has already voted by post.

As for those availing the service from United States, according to the guideline, the returning officers concerned will send postal ballot to the identified assistant returning officer in Permanent Mission of Bhutan in New York via email, along with the address of the postal voters to whom it should be delivered.

The officer should then print the postal ballots and dispatch the package to the voters.

Once the voters make their pick and send it back to the officer, it will be dispatched through the next diplomatic pouch to the focal person in the foreign ministry who will then hand it over to the election commission.

The commission will further send the postal ballots to respective returning officers to be counted on the poll day.

Meanwhile, of the dzongkhags, Trashigang received highest number of applications, 6105.  It had around 10,039 postal voters registered.  It was followed by Mongar with 3,942 applicants.

Having arrived at the breakdowns, election commission is studying it to come out with the “next course of action” by today afternoon.

During the first council elections, a total of 20,992 people had applied for postal ballots but only around 22 percent of the ballots were counted.

By Kesang Dema

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