Invalid vote concernsAs polling for the third phase of local level elections takes place in Province 2 on Monday, there are concerns over the possibility of a high number of invalid votes, considering the scenario in the first two phases and the past records of void votes in the eight Tarai districts.
As polling for the third phase of local level elections takes place in Province 2 on Monday, there are concerns over the possibility of a high number of invalid votes, considering the scenario in the first two phases and the past records of void votes in the eight Tarai districts.
Despite the Election Commission spending a large sum of money on voter education, the share of invalid votes in local polls held in the six other provinces was alarming.In the May 14 vote, Lalitpur district recorded the highest number of invalid votes—17.1 percent. Kathmandu came third with 16.2 percent votes wasted. A complex ballot paper and an ineffective voter education were blamed for the situation.
The Tarai districts have a historically high number of invalid votes, blamed on various factors. Invalid votes in the eight Tarai districts remained higher than elsewhere during the two Constituent Assembly elections in 2008 and 2013.
Election Commission Spokesperson Navaraj Dhakal said invalid votes in Central Tarai accounted for more than 7 percent in the CA elections, higher than the national average of 5 percent. The percentage of invalid votes in Saptari-1 was 7.89 in 2013 and 9.22 in 2008.
For the latest polls, as many as 3,580 people were deployed for voter education, with the EC spending around Rs50 million including on training for volunteers in Province 2. The election body also spent millions to publicise messages through state-owned media.
Former chief election commissioner Surya Prasad Shrestha, who now leads the National Election Observer Organisation, said there could be a higher share of invalid votes in Province 2 this time around as the EC had failed to make voter education effective. The recent floods and inundation in the plains had also hampered efforts to reach out to voters with sample ballot papers.
“A complicated ballot paper increases the chances of invalid votes where the literacy rate is low if voter education is ineffective,” Shrestha observed, adding that the EC should have allowed organisations to devise effective voter education programmes.
Since a voter has to vote for seven candidates at a local council, the ballot papers have been large. On June 26, pointing to a large number of invalid votes in the first phase, three organisations had alleged that the EC failed to introduce adequate measures for reducing the invalid vote in the second phase.
In the June 28 vote, Kapilvastu recorded the highest percentage of invalid votes at 22.72. Other Tarai districts also came on top in void votes—Sunsari -13.91, Morang 16.14, Rupandehi-15.81 and Nawalparasi 13.61 percent.