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When the country went to the polls…

If going to the polls is difficult, conducting elections is not an easy affair.

With the elections over, the Election Commission of Bhutan shared their stories on how they conducted the 2018 Assembly elections yesterday.

In Paro, the dzongkhag deployed an all-women team at the Drugyel polling station on October 18 as polling officials. Lhuentse dzongkhag had initiated the all-women polling team at Autsho Central School for the postal ballot facilitation booth as well as primary round poll day.

Election officials who went to conduct a common forum at Getana gewog in Chukha on October 5 got stranded in the middle of the forest until 1am while returning. They reached home only after another vehicle came to pick them up.

In Dagana, polling officials got stranded between Khainikhola and Labrangkhola rivers on September 13.

Including security personnel, 22 polling officials of Dagana, deployed to Samchumthang and Karmaling gewog centre polling stations managed to cross the Sheti Buger and Khainikhola rivers. “However, due to heavy rainfall, the Labrangkhola swelled and the team couldn’t cross it, leaving them stranded between the Khainikhola and Labrangkhola rivers.”

An army truck and a heavy earth moving machine, JCB, had to be deployed to rescue the team. “The next day, excavators and two private JCBs were hired to divert the river and clear the roadblock caused by rainfall the previous night. With no other option, the polling officials then took a ride in the bucket of the JCB to cross the river and managed to reach the respective polling stations on time.”

In Mongar, officials had to work round the clock at a stretch on a couple of occasions. Similarly, the Pemagatshel team completed investigations on a dispute at 6am of the poll day, beating the record of the central investigation team who could complete investigation in Paro at 5am earlier in the campaign period.

Polling officials had to keep their mobile phones switched off in Benporong, Samdrupjongkhar on October 17 to save battery for the poll day since the polling station is in a remote place without road and electricity.

In Trashigang, the polling team of Khiliphoo polling station in Merak gewog had to assign an official to walk to a nearby hilltop and relay two-hourly voter turnout, as the mobile network connectivity at the polling station was unreliable on poll day.

According to ECB, 12 postal ballots addressed to Shompangkha of Sarpang dzongkhag were mistakenly sent to Sombaykha in Haa. It was discovered on the eve of the poll day during the Envelope A sorting. “These were immediately asked to be sent to Thimphu and Bhutan Post delivered them to the Shompangkha returning officer on Poll Day just in time for the counting.”

In Wangduephodrang, election authorities hired four buses to ferry 154 summer resident voters of Sha Khotakha, since there was no public transport facility.

Tashi Dema 

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