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Challenges to educate voters



Election Commission

With only 52 days remaining for the second Constituent Assembly (CA) Election, the Electoral Education and Information Center (EEIC) at the Election Commission (EC) is under pressure to accomplish its work on time.

Though the two months long education campaign kicked off in some places on September 20, the EEIC has educated only 7000 volunteers till date. The center plans to mobilize altogether 15,000 volunteers across the country.

The EC had begun printing voter education materials after President Ram Baran Yadav on September 17 endorsed an ordinance forwarded by the government to increase the number of CA seats to 601, amending the previous 25-point ordinance that fixed the CA size at 491 seats.

The EC had printed only samples before the ordinance got endorsed.As the EC plans to cover all of the registered 12.5 million voters, on an average one volunteer has to educate 833 voters.

Komal Dhamala, executive director of the EEIC, said that the office is planning to deploy volunteers proportionally keeping the number of voters in a particular constituency mind.
Under five-tier orientations and trainings for volunteers, the trainings are conducted at central level, regional level, district level, VDCs and municipal wards and at the polling locations forming seven groups of master trainers at the central level, said Radhika Regmi, National Training Advisor, deployed at the EEIC from International Foundation for Electoral System.

Those master trainers conduct trainings in development regions, with the trained ones then going to the districts to train volunteers at the local level. The volunteers´ training focus mainly on educating how and why to vote, Regmi added.

The volunteers are to educate the people about various aspects of the CA elections and conduct mock polls in localities. They are required to create a public forum at VDC offices, schools and other public places, distribute brochures, pamphlets, handbooks, volunteer guiding books, flip charts and posters, and perform musical drama and informative songs, among others.

The method of educating through these education materials were implemented in the last poll as well. But this time, the center plans educate even those voters who are tech savvy voters. The EC has already stated that the voter education program would be different from that of the 2008 CA election prioritizing the advanced technology over the years.

According to the EEIC officer Hem Raj Aryal, the center is launching campaigns through social networks, TV scrolling, digital display at malls and other public places, sign boards, voter education through SMS. However, the center has no statistics on the exact number of voters to be reached using technology.

The EEIC staffs are busy on designing the education materials for the trainers´ training on how to educate voters, count votes and many other tasks, said Aryal.

In the CA poll of 2008, as many as 10.8 million voter cast votes of the total 17.6 million registered voters under the first-past-the-post (FPTP) system. The data shows that 5.15 percent votes were invalid, which means that more than half million votes were spoiled due to various reasons. The officials say that the void ballots that accounted for up to five percent was reasonable as per the international standard. However, 61 districts were recorded with more than six percent and less than 10 percent spoiled votes in the last poll.

Among them, 10 districts recorded the void votes between eight to nine percent, whereas three districts were recorded with above nine and below 10 percent. The scenario was better in the proportional system where spoiled votes were recorded below five percent in most of the districts.

One of the major goals of the center is to reduce the number of spoiled ballot through the effective education campaigns. However, the office is now running out of time to carry out such campaigns.

“This is the second time that most of the people would be voting under both the FPTP and proportional method, thus, we estimate that there will be a decline in the number of void ballots,” mentioned Dhamala.

´World´s second best education center´

Established in 2011, the center is considered second best among the education and information centers across the world. The center aims to increase voters participation through decentralized procedures by making electoral education accessible to all voters. The center has set aside Rs 925 million for the purpose.

The center activities include establishing training units, electoral research and capacity-building, interactive voter education, opportunities to partake in mock elections, display of the electoral museum and information, electoral library, media centre and facilities for training and capacity building of the commission´s staff and stakeholders.
“We have the second best EEIC after the one in Canberra, Australia,” claimed Dhamala.

Under the Information and Education Unit, the Center has established the electoral museum, the training center, mock polling unit and the interactive zone. He mentioned that the commission has been providing civic and democratic electoral education and information to visiting individuals and groups. It encourages people of all remote areas and under-privileged class, race, gender and regions through a number of outreach programs.

EEIC´s Challenges

To make voters aware why and how to vote
Access to voters using information technology
Minimizing the spoiled votes in districts with above six percent in 61 districts

Source: Republica Daily


Published on 2013-09-28 04:04:13

About nirjanasharma

Nepali Journalist.

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