RANGOON — Local election monitors have voiced concerns over the casting of invalid votes as advance voting, which began on Thursday for individuals with duties at polling stations on election day, continues this week.
The Green Network, a member group of the Election Education and Observation Partners (EEOP), said they had recorded more than 100 possibly invalid ballots during their monitoring activities. The group’s assessment was based on interviews with voters after they cast ballots.
Some 40,000 “special police” recruited to stand duty at polling stations and additional security personnel; firefighters; polling station officers; and candidates in the election are among those permitted to cast advance votes from Oct. 29 to Nov. 5.
Executive director of the Tenasserim Division-based Green Network, Po Em, said some voters had made selections using a ballpoint pen instead of a stamp.
However, Khin Zaw Htun, deputy director of the Rangoon Division election sub-commission, suggested that poll authorities would in fact recognize ballots marked in pen if they were otherwise completed correctly. He added this would only extend to advance votes and not ballots submitted on election day.
Union Election Commission member Win Kyi confirmed this stance to The Irrawaddy on Wednesday.
Zwe Thurein, an election observer in Rangoon Division’s South Okkalapa Township with the Public Welfare Network, another EEOP member organization, said some voters were unclear on voting procedures and predicted a high-rate of invalid votes.
Earlier this year, EEOP announced it would field the country’s largest monitoring force, mobilizing around 2,500 persons to cover 100 townships across the country.
The Irrawaddy contacted nine EEOP coalition organizations in recent days and, while some groups hadn’t yet begun their monitoring activities, others reported they had not yet documented similar issues with invalid advance votes.
A director with the Sittwe-based Wunlark Development Association, Khaing Kaung San, told The Irrawaddy on Monday that as far as his group could assess, the majority of advance voters had correctly filled out ballots.
Another local poll monitor, Charity-Oriented Myanmar (COM), said during a press conference in Rangoon on Monday that a lack of voter education would increase the likelihood of invalid ballots on Nov. 8.
The group’s consultant, Aung Htike Min, told the media that their 31 observers spread across 28 townships nationwide had observed little to no voter education activities by political parties or other groups.