UEC Extends Voter List Review amid Complaints

By San Yamin Aung 29 June 2015

RANGOON — Burma’s Union Election Commission (UEC) said a voter list review period will be indefinitely prolonged to allow voters to submit corrections, following mounting complaints that preliminary rosters contained numerous errors.

UEC Director Thein Oo told The Irrawaddy on Monday that voter lists currently on view will remain in place, while those that have already been removed will be posted again for further public scrutiny.

Thein Oo said the order to keep the lists displayed was issued to UEC sub-commissions last week, to be implemented immediately. The lists will remain on view until sometime before the commission announces the official election date—which is expected at least 90 days in advance of polls slated for early November—he said.

The lists will then be removed, revised and displayed again for a final two-week review period, after which voters cannot request any further changes. The final review period was initially set to last only seven days, but has also been extended to a full two weeks. Those who petition to change their registration data upon this period must submit a form to the UEC and should receive notice from the commission within seven days.

“Since our intention is to get accurate voter lists, we instructed [UEC staff] to continue to show all preliminary voter lists and continue to accept complaint forms, to be able to correct errors as much as we can before we display the nationwide voter lists,” Thein Oo said.

The order came as a surprise about-face after UEC member Win Kyi announced last week that there would be no extension of the review period, according to The Myanmar Times.

The commission began a four-phase rollout of voter lists in late March, posting the initial lists in township sub-commission offices across the country for review by the electorate. Phase four is still ongoing in some areas, where it should reach into some of the country’s most remote border territories.

Problems were evident from the outset, as reports poured in of incorrect birth dates, exclusion of eligible voters and the inclusion of names of the deceased. The main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), penned an open letter to the commission on June 4 claiming that some 30 to 80 percent of eligible voter data was incorrectly listed on the initial roster.

UEC Chairman Tin Aye also acknowledged that the lists needed revision, telling reporters in a press briefing that errors were to be expected and the NLD was “exaggerating a bit” about the severity of the discrepancies.

Election monitors defended the NLD’s complaint after finding that the inaccuracies, which were found mostly in Rangoon and Naypyidaw during early phases of the rollout, were widespread.

Mya Nandar, a monitor working with the New Myanmar Foundation, said her group had seen various reports of mismatches between government-issued identification cards and voter list data.

“The UEC Chairman [Tin Aye] has said that if only the names and the NRC [national ID card] are incorrect it will be okay to vote, but there needs to be something more official than his words,” Mya Nanda said, concerned that voters might not take a proactive approach to voter verification, assuming that inconsistencies would be smoothed out on Election Day.

“Voters shouldn’t lose their rights because some data are incorrectly stated on the voter lists,” she said.

Voter lists are currently displayed in parts of Arakan, Kachin and Shan states, as well as townships across Mandalay, Pegu, Sagaing’s Nagaland region and Kawthaung in Tenasserim Division. According to the UEC director, lists should imminently be redisplayed and available for public review in all sub-commission offices nationwide.