RANGOON — Burma’s Union Election Commission (UEC) has said it will issue special identity cards to ensure the right to vote in Burma’s upcoming general election for victims of recent widespread flooding in the country who have lost their identity documents in the high waters.
With tens of thousands of people having fled their homes over the last few weeks due to severe floods that continue to ravage parts of the country, UEC director Thaung Hlaing said the commission was stepping in with a voting contingency plan.
“People are worrying that they will lose their voting rights since their NRC [national registration certificate] cards and household registrations were lost or damaged during the floods. So we will arrange to issue the identity cards for voters,” UEC director Thaung Hlaing told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday.
The UEC announced that it would issue the “voter registration cards” to eligible voters about one week ahead of election day, state-run media reported on Wednesday, with the document allowing voters who lost their NRC or household registrations to vote in the poll scheduled for Nov. 8.
UEC director Thaung Hlaing said the commission was in the process of determining how best to distribute the cards, with one option under consideration being to give the documents directly to voters via ward and village-level election subcommissions in each state and division, possibly by going door-to-door.
“If the voters bring the cards to the polling station on election day, it can prove their identity if someone objects to them voting in the election, and the process will be fast to find their names on the voter lists,” he said.
The UEC will post a second round of voter lists nationwide late this month, after preliminary lists were released in four phases beginning in March. The preliminary rollout faced criticism from political parties and civil society groups who said the voter rosters were riddled with errors, potentially disenfranchising millions of people if left uncorrected.
Voters will have just 14 days to make sure their names appear on the lists, or risk losing their right to cast a ballot in the country’s much-anticipated nationwide election.
According to the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, 259,799 people had been affected by the flooding across 12 states and divisions in Burma as of Tuesday, and 69 people had been killed.
The pledge to issue the special cards is the second step taken by the UEC in as many days to attempt to address concerns about the impact that the widespread flooding might have on the election and preparations for the poll.
On Monday, the UEC extended the deadline for political parties to submit their candidate rosters by one week, from Aug. 8 to Aug. 14, saying parties had requested more time to make the filings because of the logistical difficulties that the floods were presenting.