RANGOON — Burma’s Union Election Commission (UEC) is taking steps to compile voter lists that will determine who is eligible to cast a ballot in the 2015 elections.
Before creating a national list, the UEC is making lists of eligible voters in three townships in Rangoon Division, Kachin State and Chin State, as part of a pilot project that will end in August.
The three townships were selected for their diversity, according to Thaung Hlaing, director of the UEC. While the first township, Rangoon’s Ahlone Township, is highly populated, the second, Tiddim Township in Chin State, is remote. The third township, Myitkyina in Kachin State, is home to people who were displaced by fighting between the military and an ethnic armed group.
“By doing the compilation ahead in these three townships with different situations, we can find out how to manage well in the nationwide compilation,” Thaung Hlaing told The Irrawaddy.
Twenty-five civil society groups are assisting with the compilations, including voter education and monitoring groups. District and township election commissions are also involved, along with ward administrations and the Ministry of Immigration and Population’s National Registration Department.
Thaung Hlaing said the voter lists would include any citizen at least 18 years of age whose name appears on ward-level population lists and household registration lists. He said members of the public could file an appeal if they believed they had been wrongfully excluded.
“We will computerize the voters’ information this year so the same person cannot be include twice on the list and it will be easier to find data,” he added. “Later we will upload the information on a website and anyone can download the list of voters in each constituency.”
Nationwide compilation will likely start early next year, he said.
“I am not sure how we will manage to compile voter lists in regions controlled by armed groups,” he added, referring to ethnic armed groups that control vast territories across the country. “We have the election commission offices in states—at the district and township levels—but according to the election law, if a state is not at peace, if there is not security, or if there is an environmental disaster, the election will not be held there.”
Voter education and training will be offered to members of the public, including activists and leaders of civil society groups, to ensure that everyone understands how to file an appeal if their name does not appear on the list, according to Than Htay, director of The Serenity Initiative, a civil society group that is assisting with the pilot project.
“When we distribute pamphlets in Tiddim Township in Chin State and Myitkyina in Kachin State, we will use their native languages,” he told The Irrawaddy.
“Inclusion on the list of voters is the most important for an election. If a person is not included, he or she cannot vote and unfair things can happen.”