Nationwide Voter List Rollout Due in Coming Weeks: Officials

By San Yamin Aung 21 May 2015

RANGOON — Next week will see the release of a second batch of eligible voter lists in two cities in Burma, the capital Naypyidaw and the country’s largest city Rangoon. Since late last year, subcommissions of the Union Election Commission (UEC) have been working with local officials to compile the lists, which will be publically displayed in front of ward subcommission offices.

Residents are being urged by the UEC and local civil society organizations to check their names against the list, and report any discrepancies to the relevant election subcommissions so that the data can be corrected. This includes misspellings, omissions and the inclusion of deceased voters.

And while the release of voter lists may not be the most exciting aspect of an historic election that is already shaping up to be a high drama affair—complete with high-level political intrigue, unprecedented international attention and major geopolitical ramifications—the logistical task of compiling accurate voter rolls is a crucial aspect of ensuring credible elections expected in early November.

At a meeting with civil society groups last week, UEC chairman Tin Aye said voter list compilation was nearly 70 percent complete.

The UEC has laid out a four-phase rollout of voter lists nationwide, with the last to come on June 22. From the date of their release, the lists are displayed publically for 14 days. Voter lists will be made public nationwide once more, after the Election Day date is announced by the UEC.

The Irrawaddy reached out to the subcommissions of all 14 states and divisions this week to find out when voter lists will be released and how the process is playing out.

Rangoon Division

Rangoon Division will release its second batch of voter lists on Monday, covering 14 townships. On March 30, an initial release of 10 townships’ voter rolls was made public. A third and final batch of the division’s remaining 21 townships is due next month.

Naypyidaw Union Territory

The eight townships comprising Naypyidaw will join Rangoon in the second phase of voter list releases on Monday, according to UEC member Win Kyi.

Karen State

Karen State’s seven townships will all release their voter lists on June 8, with subcommission chairman Kyaw Win Maung telling The Irrawaddy that compilation of the voter lists has been completed and is being “finalized.” Some 20 civil society organizations are currently undertaking voter education activities in the state.

Parts of Karen State are under the control of ethnic Karen armed rebel groups, and Kyaw Win Maung told The Irrawaddy that voter lists in about 60 villages in Karen rebel territory had not been compiled and would require the cooperation of the armed groups, which local election officials continue to seek.

Karenni State

The seven townships of Karenni State will release their voter lists on June 8. The state subcommission said provisional lists have enumerated 159,565 eligible voters statewide in a process that took less than two months owing to the relatively small population.

Mon State

Local media have reported that voter rolls will be made public statewide on June 8. Mon State is comprised of 10 townships and, like Karen State, includes some territory under the control of ethnic armed groups.

Shan State

Releases in Burma’s largest state will be divided geographically, with voter lists in 21 townships of southern Shan State to be made available on June 8. In northern Shan State, 27 townships will publically display their voter rolls on June 22.

Election officials were unable to compile voter lists in seven townships where “the situation is not stable,” according to the state subcommission’s chairman U Pwint. He said the affected townships include Laukkai and Konegyan in the Kokang Special Region and four townships in Wa Special Region, including its capital Panghsang, as well as Mong La in Shan State’s Special Region 4.

Pegu Division

Win Maung, subcommission chairman for Pegu Division, said eight townships in Pegu district would display voter lists on June 8, and the 20 remaining townships across the division’s three other districts would follow suit on June 22. Compilation of the voter lists is 96 percent complete, he added.

Mandalay Division

Burma’s second biggest city and surrounding townships will release their voter lists in two phases, on June 8 and 22. Twenty of Mandalay Division’s 28 townships will release the information on June 8, with the remainder to follow 14 days later. Subcommission deputy director Kyaw Kyaw Soe told The Irrawaddy that the process began in December and has gone smoothly, though he said there were particular concerns about voter lists in Yamethin Township, where small-scale gold mining attracts a large population of transients that likely would not be listed.

Additionally, an estimated 100,000 voters in Mandalay district alone lack household registration papers, meaning they will be left off the provisional voter lists. These individuals are able to appeal to have their names included on the voter list, but must be able to prove to local officials that they have resided in their constituency for at least six months.

Irrawaddy Division

Irrawaddy Division election officials will release the delta region’s voter lists in two stages, the first on June 8 covering Pathein and Hinthada districts, according to Myint Naing, the assistant director of the division’s subcommission. Voter lists for the districts of Laubin, Myaungmya, Pyapon and Labutta will follow on June 22.

According to provisional lists, there are 4,167,338 eligible voters in Irrawaddy Division.

Sagaing Division

According to Sagaing Division subcommission chairman Tin Oo, “at least five” of 37 townships’ voter lists will be displayed on June 8, with the remaining lists to follow on June 22. Local election officials had targeted a May 24 release date for the lists, he said, but a delay in receiving voter education pamphlets had caused a postponement.

In the Naga Self-Administered Zone, Tin Oo said the subcommission had not compiled any voter lists, but was attempting to resolve the issue.

The Irrawaddy was unable to contact the relevant electoral subcommissions in Burma’s remaining three states and two divisions. They are: Arakan, Chin and Kachin states, and Magwe and Tenasserim divisions.

Additional reporting by Salai Thant Zin in Pathein, Irrawaddy Division.