Prithivi Man Shrestha, The Kathmandu Post, 12 Nov 2017
Alarmed by high percentage of invalid votes during the local polls and stung by criticism for failing to ensure effective voter education programmes, the Election Commission (EC) is set to adopt a relatively time-consuming voting process for the upcoming elections, which it believes will minimise confusion among voters and reduce the number of void votes.
According to the EC, after attesting a voter, officials deployed at the poll centre will hand two first-past-the-post (FPTP) ballot papers—one each for federal parliament and provincial assembly—to her. Once the voter puts her stamp on the two FPTP ballot papers, she will walk to another desk where she will be handed another ballot paper for proportional representation system.
This may be relatively time consuming, but it would help reduce the number of invalid votes, EC officials said.
The invalid vote percentage for the local elections, which were held on May 14, June 28 and September 18, stood at 12.5 percent, which was alarmingly high.
The EC’s latest plan follows criticism over its failure to ensure effective voter education programmes. The EC, however, has said that voter education materials worth millions of rupees had to be dumped following a Supreme Court (SC) ruling to make arrangements for separate FPTP ballot papers for the federal and provincial election.
This new arrangement while voting is also prompted by the same ruling, as the EC has prepared three sets of ballot papers for the upcoming elections-two FPTP ballots and one PR ballot for both the elections. Earlier the EC was planning to print FPTP ballots for both the elections on a single sheet of paper.
Both federal and provincial elections will be held in two phases on November 26 and December 7.
To make it easier for voters, the EC has arranged green ballot papers for federal elections and black ballot papers for provincial elections under the FPTP system. The EC has printed red ballot papers for the PR system.
While a voter will have to choose one candidate each from two FPTP ballot papers for federal and provincial seats, she will have to stamp twice on the PR ballot paper to party/ parties of her choice.
“This system will minimise confusion among voters, which is expected to reduce the number of void votes,” said EC Spokesperson Nawaraj Dhakal.
The EC on Saturday also said that around 20,000 volunteers have been mobilised for voter education.
“We have asked the volunteers to reach out to people along with civil society members to inform them about the way they should vote during the elections,” said Surya Prasad Sharma, information office at the EC. “We hope his way of educating voters will be more effective than volunteer reaching out to household individually,” said Aryal.