UEC Says Voter List Errors Expected, Remediable

By San Yamin Aung 8 June 2015

RANGOON — Burma’s Union Election Commission responded on Monday to claims by the National League for Democracy (NLD) that up to 80 percent of eligible voter lists compiled by the electoral body are inaccurate, with the commission chairman acknowledging numerous errors in the lists but insisting the necessary measures were in place to resolve the problem.

“I looked at a voter list that included 20 voters on a single page. Among them, I found 18 of them contained incorrect dates of birth. So, if it is examined on dates of birth, it could possible,” UEC chairman Tin Aye told The Irrawaddy during a press conference at the Myanmar Peace Center in Rangoon. “But actually, [a voter] only needs to be at least 18 years old. If they want to correct their date of birth, they need to fill out the form. We need collaboration.”

The NLD said in an open letter made public on Thursday that its own “voter list reviewing committee” had determined that between 30 percent and 80 percent of the listings were inaccurate, after scrutinizing the rosters in the 32 townships in Naypyidaw and Rangoon that had been made public at the time.

The errors ranged from incorrect dates of birth to the erroneous listing of people who lack identity documents, the letter said.

The chairman, however, said the NLD was “exaggerating a bit” in its claim.

“From the beginning, we knew the preliminary lists would include many errors,” Tin Aye told reporters in opening remarks.

“Since we were compiling the voter lists based on two outdated lists—ward-level population lists and household registration lists—the voter lists will contain many errors and thus we urged voters to check the list to correct the errors in the preliminary lists.”

Tin Aye said that incorrect dates of birth and the names of deceased people whose family members had not removed them from household registration lists accounted for the majority of the errors in voter compilation.

Also on Monday, state media reported that a third batch of voter rolls was released statewide in Karenni, Karen, Chin and Mon states, as well as for all of Magwe Division. Partial releases also took place in Sagaing, Tenasserim, Pegu and Mandalay divisions, along with three districts in Shan State including the Pa-O and Danu self-administered zones.

Those lists will be displayed publicly through June 21.

The UEC said the final batch of preliminary lists would be displayed no later than the second week of July, with lists again posted for voters to check nationwide over a seven-day period before the election, around August.

“We would not have the forms [to fill up for erroneous exclusions, inclusions and data] if we could make the complete list at once,” UEC member Win Kyi told reporters at the press conference.

He told The Irrawaddy that the commission would use all means to correct the errors on every roster in time for the election.

Tin Aye also addressed criticism from some quarters about the involvement of retired military officers at all levels of the election commission.

Less than 10 percent of the commission’s personnel—124 people—were ex-military officers, he said, compared with 1,126 civilians and nearly 200 drawn from a variety of government ministries.

He added that it was too soon to say whether elections would be held in the semiautonomous special regions of Wa and Kokang, where he said subcommissions had been unable to operate because security authorities said the electoral officials’ safety could not be guaranteed.

The chairman also responded to concerns that the election, which the UEC has said will take place in late October or early November, might be postponed or cancelled.

“It is just worrying. … The parliamentary term will expire in January 2016 and as such, [new] elected representatives are needed. So the election is a must-do.”