Delayed poll education programme: Concerns grow over low voter turnoutWith less than a month to go for local level elections, concerns are growing about low voter turnout and higher number of invalid votes, as distribution of election education materials has been delayed for various reasons.
With less than a month to go for local level elections, concerns are growing about low voter turnout and higher number of invalid votes, as distribution of election education materials has been delayed for various reasons.
Volunteers mobilised for voter education have not received election education materials.
The Election Commission has fixed 21,000 booths for voting set for May 14. There are 14,054,482 registered voters across the country.
But since the local elections are taking place after a hiatus of two decades and under the new structure, failure to educate voters on time could result in higher number of invalid votes, some knowledgeable sources told the Post.
“The EC does not have enough time, as it used to have during earlier elections for voter education and this could lead to a rise in number of invalid votes,” said Election Commissioner Narendra Dahal.
For the second Constituent Assembly elections held in November 2013, the EC had about two months for educating voters, a mandatory but significant process for polls.
“Since voters need to cast votes to a number of candidates (seven) in a single ballot paper, it may lead to confusion. Hence voter education is crucial,” added Dahal.
In the 2013 CA elections, 4.96 percent of the total votes cast under the first-past-the-post system were invalid, while invalid votes under the proportional representation system stood at 3.2 percent.
The pattern was similar in first CA elections of 2008.
Under the FPTP system, 5.15 percent votes were counted as invalid while 3.66 percent invalid votes were found under the PR system, according to the EC.
On the delay in voter education programmes, Election Commissioner Ila Sharma said it was due to delay in printing election education materials. “We could not use all types election materials related to election education even while training election officers and volunteers,” said Sharma.
According to the EC, around four million sets of election materials have been printed and they are being sent to the district headquarters. They will reach all polling stations (21,000) in around 10-12 days.
The voter education materials include pamphlets and frequently asked questions in 16 languages.
Former chief election commissioner Nil Kantha Upreti said limited time for voters to learn about elections and complicated ballot papers could lead to higher number of invalid votes.
“A voter has to choose seven candidates unlike the CA elections when they were supposed to vote for one candidate of a party,” he said.
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