The Elections Commission (EC) has published the list of eligible voters for the presidential election scheduled for September 7, in the government’s online gazette.
Speaking to local media today, the EC said public would now have 10 days to ensure that people included on the list were correctly registered – or else risk invalidating their right to vote come polling in September.
Local NGO Transparency Maldives, which will be monitoring the upcoming election, said it would not have time to audit the eligible voters list before the vote, with members of the public being required to verify the details of themselves and relatives on the list.
Beyond concerns at the relatively short amount of time given to voters to check their eligibility, the NGO said it believed ensuring voters were correctly registered to vote near their current place of residence once the election was officially announced was a particularly pressing concern.
Under the regulations on presidential elections published earlier this month, any complaints concerning the status of the 240,302 voters included on the register should be raised with the EC within the next 10 days.
Speaking to local media, EC President Fuad Thaufeeq said it was possible that the published list would include individuals who had since died without their records being updated with the commission.
“We believe we have not received accurate information regarding people who have passed away. We obtain the information from whichever relevant authority holds the information at that time,” he was quoted as saying by Sun Online.
Thaufeeq said the public were requested over the next 10 days to inform the EC of any discrepancies on the list such as the inclusion of names of the deceased, a failure to include eligible voters on the list, or an incorrect national identification card number.
“If the person is dead, the procedure is that it can verified by statements from two family members. The persons who are not included on the list cannot vote. Persons also cannot vote if their names are spelled wrong, or if their addresses are wrong, or if the name on their ID cards and the name on the list does not match,” he was reported as saying.
Thaufeeq was not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.
Addressing the possibility of discrepancies, Transparency Maldives Project Director Aiman Rasheed said the NGO would not have time to conduct the lengthy audit required to ensure the list was fully accurate, given the time constraints.
He said that under Article 15 (A) of the new Presidential Elections Regulations, it would not be possible to make any changes to the registry beyond the first ten days of its publication. Additionally, any person absent from the registry would not be eligible to be re-registered for September’s vote unless the EC was notified in the next ten days.
While the registry has been published “early” ahead of elections expected in early September, Rasheed said the NGO was aware of “issues” being raised that the EC has previously provided the minimum required length of time allowed under regulations to clarify any vote discrepancies or errors.
He added that the 10 day period was another example of this.
According to Rasheed, another concern held by Transparency Maldives regarding voting in September was the issue of re-registration for members of the public living in different islands or countries from their permanent address held by the EC.
Taking the case of a Maldives national living abroad in Malaysia or Sri Lanka, he claimed that unless a voter re-registered their details with the EC to use a ballot box in that country, they would need to return to their place of permanent residence in order to vote.
Rasheed said the EC had already travelled to islands across the country to try and raise awareness over the issue, which reflected what he said were “progressive improvements” in the commission’s work to keep voters informed.
Transparency said a timeframe by when voters would need to re-register their new addresses had not been outlined by the EC at present, but was expected to be set after the election was officially announced.