Ineffective voter education likely to increase invalid votes


Kalika Khadka
Ramila Thapa,58, from Dolakha voted in the first round of election to the House of Representatives and State Assemblies held on November 26 but not in a complete manner.

She voted for a candidate each to the HoR and SA but did not mark the required number of votes for the proportional representation (PR) category. “There were three ballot papers, I marked the two small ones, and one mark in the big one,”

Thapa said. Since she had to mark two votes in PR, Thapa hence did not vote for a PR candidate in both the HoR and SA of her constituency in Dolakha.

Similarly, Sunita Thami, 40, voted with two marks in one ballot paper where she had to vote for only one candidate. She was too confused about the way to vote for a PR candidate and hence voted the wrong way.

Ramila and Sunita are two representative voters who are probably among many who did not have much knowledge about the way to vote this time around. It will of course be known only after the number of invalid votes is counted after the elections are over and the counting of votes begin.

Lack of sufficient time for voter education, harvesting season for many voters and last minute change in the style of ballot paper by the Election Commission are among some reasons that is said to be behind ineffective voter education for the November 26 and December 7 elections.

“Since we had to make last minute changes to the ballot there was not much time for voter education, especially for the first round,” said Information Officer at the EC Surya Prasad Aryal.

The EC has managed a green colored ballot paper each for the HoR and SA and a red colored ballot for the PR system. And apart from marking one vote each in two green colored ballot papers, voters need to put two marks, one above and one below in the red colored ballot paper as well to choose the PR candidate for both HoR and SA.

The EC said it has mobilized one staff each for every 19,809 polling stations across the country especially for voter education. The media and non-government organizations too are helping with the voter education. But the effort seems to have not been enough, and with only few more days left for the second round of elections, it seems a challenging task for all the stakeholders to ensure that people do not let their precious vote go waste.