Friday, August 18, 2017

Voter list errors and omissions pile up on the UEC

As electoral officials continue their nationwide effort to complete an accurate voters list in advance of the November election, thousands of errors and omitted names continue to riddle the publicly posted inventories.

U Tin Min Aye, the electoral officer of the Mandalay District sub-commission, said that every day since the provisional lists were posted a second time on September 14, around 1500 people apply to include their name.

“Because their names were excluded on the second-round list, this increase in applications is happening in seven Mandalay townships,” he said.

The first iteration of the list, which was available for public viewing from May 25 to June 7, generated mass complaints due to extensive errors. The National League for Democracy claimed that 80 percent of the names on the list were entered incorrectly or omitted completely, a claim the UEC admitted could be true in individual townships, but not true across the nation. In Yangon alone, 87,000 residents registered complaints, with 48,000 requesting names be added.

The UEC re-opened the lists for voter scrutiny on September 14, and they will stay open until September 27. Once again, voters are encountering a barrage of mistakes many fear will block them come from the polling booths. In Hlaing Tharyar township, Yangon’s industrial outskirts, at least 250,000 names are absent from the list in an en masse exclusion of domestic migrants and squatters. Township election officials blamed the omissions on a shortage of the required forms, as well as a lack of voter awareness.

But U Tin Min Aye claimed that the remaining errors on the updated list occurred due to a software issue, which only allows two input fields for each voter’s name. Those voters with three-word names end up throwing off the entire entry form.

“This continually happened and resulted in more missing names,” he said.

U Than Myint, the National League for Democracy chair in Hlaing Tharyar township, is helping to collect the voter list and said the errors are particularly concerning.

“We are worried that they are trying to shrink the voter list,” he said.

Voters also fear manipulation of the list. “My name was included on the list the first time, but the second time it was not,” said Ko Htun Lin, a resident of Chan Aye Thar San township in Mandalay.

The UEC has said it is the voters’ responsibility to ensure their names and details have been correctly listed. Officials pledged to take action on complaints of names that should not be there, such as those of deceased voters.

U Aung Myint, chair of the local sub-commission in Nay Pyi Taw, said three officials would be on duty at the electoral offices to assist members of the public. The lists are open for scrutiny between 9am and 7pm.

The final voting list, to be released before November 8, will not be correctable, according to the UEC.

 Additional reporting by Swan Ye Htut and translation by Khin San May