Those eligible have until January 25, 2013 to register with ECB
Postal Ballot Are you a trainee or a student, 18 years and older, and studying within the country or abroad?
Then you are eligible to cast your vote through post in the 2013 general elections. To exercise your franchise, though, you must first apply for registration as a postal voter with the Election Commission of Bhutan.
In a notification, dated January 4, and published in the print media on January 8, the election commission has invited applications for registration as postal voters from registered voters.
The last date of application is January 25, which gives those eligible exactly 15 days to submit their application, routed through the head of organisation or institution, and a soft copy emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. The application format can be availed from the commission’s website www.election-bhutan.org.bt.
“Students can mail directly to the ECB, with their details and Student ID card, validating that they are genuinely studying in the college or university of that country, to avail the facility,” ECB’s delimitation officer, Tshering Penjor, said.
Besides students and trainees, 18 years and above, the ECB notification also identifies officials working in the judiciary, ministries, agencies, dzongkhag administration, autonomous bodies, Royal Bhutan Army, Royal Body Guards and Royal Bhutan Police, and their spouses and dependents, as eligible to apply.
This time, the postal ballot facility has also been extended to Bhutanese working and living in the United States (US), mainly in the city of New York, as they had requested the prime minister, during one of his visits, for the same. The prime minister had then requested ECB to look into the possibility.
After verifying the applications, the postal votes for those in US will be sent from Bhutan to the Assistant Returning Officer (ARO) at the permanent mission of the kingdom of Bhutan (PMB) at New York, which will dispatch it to those eligible. The ARO will also be responsible to collect the ballots, and mail it to the focal person in ministry of foreign affairs, who will hand it over to the ECB.
This facility is however not extended to those working in other countries abroad, an ECB official said. “However, if there are substantial numbers of voters living and working in any other country, ECB would facilitate, on a case by case basis, if a request is received,” Tshering Penjor said. In the 2008 elections, several MPs got elected because of the postal ballot.
“Although only a small percentage of voters make up the postal ballot, it can make a substantial difference, especially in closely contested elections,” Tshering Penjor said.
During the council election, election commission received about 20,992 applications for postal ballots, but only about 23 percent of the votes were considered valid. About 30,321 people had applied for postal ballots during the assembly election, while only 56.4 percent of votes were counted.
Postal ballots did not make it to the counting booth, because senders were not on the commission’s postal voter list, or many had not given their proper mailing addresses.
In last parliamentary election in 2008, according to the Drukyul Decides a book by Gyambo Sithey and Dr Tandin Dorji, of the total of 252,672 votes cast for National Assembly elections, only 17,119 were postal votes.
Of the total of 165,962 votes cast for National Council election 4,742 were postal votes.
More than 100,000 youth will also be eligible to vote next year. The age group is generally expected to complete high schools and enter colleges and institutes.
The commission is investing about Nu 90 for each postal ballot, and about Nu 2.2M, of the total Nu 500M budget reserved for the 2013 elections, has been saved for trainings on postal ballot.
By Samten Yeshi