Electoral Education Underway as Batch of Voter Lists Is Released

By Yen Saning 31 March 2015

RANGOON — With a handful of voter lists made public this week for landmark elections due later this year, civil society organizations and a group advocating digital literacy are taking the lead in encouraging citizens in Rangoon to ensure they are properly registered with local election authorities.

Voter lists for 10 townships in Burma’s biggest city have been made available this week for voters to check that their names are correctly enumerated. Voters are able to seek changes if necessary, including asking that an eligible voter not currently on the list be added, or requesting the removal of names of voters who have moved from the constituency or are deceased.

The lists were first released on Monday, and will be available for checking through April 12.

A Facebook campaign initiated by Myanmar ICT for Development Organization (MIDO) in cooperation with a dozen civil society organizations and the Rangoon Election Subcommission has been launched to disseminate information on the electoral process, including how to handle the voter lists now available. The “Let’s Check Voter List” page has gained more than 7,000 Facebook “likes” in two weeks.

Yadanar Htun, program coordinator for MIDO’s election monitoring project, said the Facebook page provides important information on the voter lists and how to change a wrongly recorded name.

“With the information provided by UEC [Union Election Commission] and IFES [International Foundation for Electoral Systems, an international NGO], we posted information that a voter needs to know. We have seen people sharing our posts. … People also come and ask questions and we answer them back. So, people are interested to a certain extent,” she told The Irrawaddy on Monday.

“One of our main reasons for the online campaign is to target first-time voters” of a younger generation most effectively reach online, she said.

Mya Nandar from the New Myanmar Foundation said her organization was conducting voter education activities on the ground in Rangoon’s Pazundaung Township. “We are raising awareness by distributing pamphlets in the quarters encouraging them to go check out the voter lists. We distribute door-to-door and also do performances. People in the quarter are interested but we need to do it more widely.”

The 10 townships in which voter lists have been released to the public are Seikkan, Dagon, Latha, Seikgyikanaungto, Dawpone, Lanmadaw, Botahtaung, Kamayut, Kyauktada and Pazundaung.

The Rangoon Election Subcommission chairman told The Irrawaddy earlier this month that voters would have another chance over a seven-day window to check the voter lists’ accuracy after the election date is announced. He added that an ongoing second phase of voter list compilation in Rangoon was expected to be completed in May, and a third and final phase would begin by the end of this month.

Election officials are targeting the completion of voter list compilation nationwide in June.

The compiling of accurate voter lists is considered a major challenge for Burma, where a credible national election last took place in 1990. By-elections in 2012 were widely considered to have been conducted freely and fairly, but only involved races in 45 constituencies, compared with polls due in late October or early November that will involve all 498 elected seats in the national legislature, as well as hundreds of state and divisional contests.