Election monitor COMFREL says new voter list acceptable

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A man looks for his name on a voter list for the election in Phnom Penh's Sen Sok district. Heng Chivoan

The Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (COMFREL) confirmed on February 23 that the voter list officially announced by the National Election Committee (NEC) late last year is acceptable even though there are still some duplicate names on the list which could lead to the disenfranchisement of a small number of voters.

According to a press release regarding the results of the voter registration and audit survey for 2020 issued on February 23, COMFREL found 79 duplicate names, the presence of which could therefore affect up to 158 people.

Among the 79 duplicate names there were 54 duplicated names listed in different provinces, 18 duplicated names within the same province but in different communes, 4 names that were duplicates within the same precinct and 3 names that were duplicated in the same commune but in a different precinct.

To study the reasons for the duplications, COMFREL selected three names from the duplicate list to study in Banteay Meanchey, Kandal, Kampot and Siem Reap provinces. Of those, COMFREL found just one eligible voter that they could confirm was definitely listed twice.

“According to the findings and analysis of duplicate names in the list, we consider the voter list quality to be acceptable. In cases where our information remains incomplete, it’s generally due to an inability to locate migrants,” the press release confirmed.

“Compared to 2019, the number of duplicate names has increased from the 17 we found that year. We note that of the duplicate names that occurred in the 2019 voter list that COMFREL submitted to the NEC to resolve, a total of 17 of those names have been removed,” the press release stated.

Som Soreida, Deputy Secretary General of the NEC, said the committee had already received COMFREL’s report on observing and auditing the 2020 voter list and considered it important input.

He said they would continue to evaluate the COMFREL research findings because they contributed to the improvement of the quality of the voter list and helped ensure that it was complete, accurate and up to date.

“Their finding is that the NEC’s list is an accurate and reliable record of eligible voters. Based on COMFREL’s work, along with 44 other names that the NEC found on its own, we will need to make only minor revisions to the voter list,” Soreida said.

Soreida claimed that the reason for the duplicate names was due to technical problems leftover from the 2016 election that the NEC conducted as a pilot election for use of the current system.

“However, for 2021, the NEC will review each duplicate name and go to their address locations for verification and remove the incorrect name from the voter list, keeping only one registered name per person,” he said.

The NEC reports that there are 8,831,971 people on the official registered voter list for 2020. That figure accounts for about eighty-five per cent of the estimated total population in Cambodia who are aged 18 years or older and thus eligible to vote.