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The Union Election Commission has begun issuing voter slips to residents whose details appear incorrectly on the existing voter lists, in the hope of reassuring eager voters that their voice will be heard on the 8 November election day.
Voter lists have been riddled with errors from the beginning, some entries listing deceased relatives and omitting members of households entirely. The UEC has come under criticism for what many feel is a botched job of registering Burma’s some 30 million voters. Admitting that the initial lists were up to 80 percent incorrect, the commission has scrambled to find a solution in the lead up to the ballot.
Some five million Burmese citizens do not have proper identification, and the householder lists that the voter list was compiled from are not consistently updated – leaving many without the resources to prove their identity.
Under one week from the election, the slips are being issued to would-be voters. The code that appears on the slip is the important feature – overriding other potentially inaccurate details, it corresponds to a voters’ unique serial code on the electoral roll. On election day, the slips— now containing the correct information, will help polling station staff to associate the code number on the voter list with the correct person, guaranteeing that holders of the slip can cast their vote.
Kyaw Zwar Tun, an officer at the Tamwe election commission, said the slips will carry enough information to supersede other inaccuracies on the electoral lists.
“The slip has a code number along with the name of the voter, father’s name, ID card number and birth date as well as home address so it carries sufficient information,” Kyaw Zwar Tun said.
Voters must pick up their slip at their village or townships election sub-commission, and can be issued up until election day. For voters without proper documentation, a village elder or head of household can vouch for their identity, allowing a slip to be issued.
Meredith Applegate, the Senior Inclusion and Operations Officer at International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), told DVB that community groups have played an important role in ensuring the public was educated and up to date on the process.
“Everyone has already known for quite some time that there were issues with the voter lists [in Burma], so the fact that there are errors is not surprising. I think a lot of people have been mobilised in society to go and check the lists … civil society groups have been working very hard across the country to mobilise people to go and verify the information and their names.
“As with any time, this is the first time that a coordinated, systematic list has been put forward to create a voter list in Myanmar,” she said.
Voters across the country do not need the slip to vote – but it will provide reassurance to those who struggled to correct their details on the list, and those without identification, that that their vote will be counted on Sunday.