Election Commission Begins National Voter List Preparation

By San Yamin Aung 4 November 2014

RANGOON— Burma’s Union Election Commission (UEC) today announced that it is beginning to compile a list of eligible voters for next year’s general election.

“We will start the compilation of national voter list with 10 townships in Rangoon in the first phase, and we will continue to the other townships over four phases,” said UEC member Win Kyi.

Staff from 10 township election commissions in Rangoon have spent the past two days training in the data computerization process used to compile voter lists, according to state-run paper The Mirror Daily.

“[In the second phase] we will continue to 41 townships in Rangoon, Taunggyi, southern Shan State and Mandalay,” said Thaung Hlaing, director of the UEC. “From there, the process will continue to other townships across the country.”

Any citizen at least 18 years of age whose name appears on ward-level population lists and household registration lists would be included in voter lists, Thaung Hlaing said.

Voter lists in all 330 townships across the country will be finished by next July. Once the lists are complete, members of the public will have 14 days to check the township voter lists for any wrongful inclusions or exclusions.

“If people believe they have been wrongfully excluded or any persons are wrongfully included, they can file an appeal to the township commission,” he said, adding that voter lists will be open to the public for appeal from seven days after the election date is officially announced next year.

The 2010 elections were widely criticized for reported instances of irregularities and fraud. In addition to reports of coercion and inducements to vote for the incumbent Union Solidarity and Development Party, many eligible voters reported that they were prevented from casting ballots after being excluded from electoral rolls.

Thaung Hlaing said that anomalies in the voter lists prepared for the 2010 elections were the result of the rushed two-month preparation period. With more time to finalize electoral rolls and computerization of voter records, he expects that there will be no wrongful inclusions or exclusions ahead of the 2015 poll.

“Transparency is improved for voter registration now,” he said. “We also have more civil society organizations collaborating in voter registration, whereas in the past, the commission carried out its duties alone.”

At present, 25 civil society groups are collaborating with the UEC on the voter list project, with more expected to join in the coming months.

The UEC made lists of voters in Ahlone Township in Rangoon, Tiddim Township in Chin State, and the Myitkyina constituency in Kachin State in July and August as a trial run for the nationwide voter list preparations now underway.

Than Htay, director of The Serenity Initiative, a civil society group that is assisting with educating the public about the voter list project, said that the pilot project revealed some problems with the compilation process.

“In some lists, deceased people and people who moved to other locations were included on lists, and those who were on the verge of turning 18 years old soon were not included,” he said.

Than Htay stressed the importance of raising public awareness of the voter registration process, so that eligible voters would check to see if they were included on township lists.

“We will educate the public to check their names on the voter list, and how to file an appeal if their name does not appear on the list,” he said.

Echoing comments made to The Irrawaddy at the start of the pilot voter list program in July, Than Htay said that ensuring voter list accuracy was a paramount concern.

“Inclusion on the list of voters is the most important thing for an election. If a person is not included, he or she cannot vote and unfair things can happen,” he said.

The UEC chairman Tin Aye announced on October 20 that the election is scheduled to be held in either the last week of October or the first week of November next year.