FAFEN Calls for Urgent Partnerships to Increase Voter Registration
The Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) has urged the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to forge a collaboration with political parties and civil society organizations in order to register more voters, and especially women, on Final Electoral Roll (FER) 2012. Political parties, in particular, are urged to cooperate fully with the ECP in this effort for the sake of shared, national interests.
Economic Survey of Pakistan 2011-2012 puts the current estimate of adult population in Pakistan at 104.64 million while FER 2012 has listed 84.3 million voters, implying that as many as 20.3 million eligible citizens are not included on the list. According to estimate based on FAFEN’s assessment of Preliminary Electoral Rolls 2012, as many as 3.6 million of these unregistered voters have acquired CNICs till May 31, 2012.
Of particular concern, FER 2012 includes 22% fewer voters in Balochistan and 7% fewer voters in Sindh compared to FER 2007. The number of women voters on the lists decreased more than 600,000 in Balochistan and almost 400,000 in Sindh from 2007 to 2012. More than 300,000 of these women already have CNICs, but have not been included on the new voters’ lists.
Although the voters’ list is incomplete, the information it does include is highly accurate, according to FAFEN’s technical study. An important exception is that 11 million voters are registered to vote according to the address on their CNICs, where they do not reside and therefore will not be able to vote.
For these reasons, FAFEN has recommended that ECP host a series of meetings with political parties and civil society to provide transparent, detailed information about FER 2102 and to enlist their help, especially in localities where ECP knows that voter registration is low.
FAFEN also wants the ECP to make the voters’ lists available at every Union Council office across the country, since District Election Commission offices are too far away for most citizens to have meaningful access. ECP should amend voter registration rules so that each Union Council office is a “one-stop-shop” for additions and corrections to the list in order to avoid the current time-consuming multi-step process.
Other rules should be changed to enable citizens to give consent to register as a voter at the time of acquiring a CNIC, according to FAFEN. This change would especially help women getting their CNICs for the first time and people who are turning 18 years of age. While welcoming the NADRA’s appeal to the political parties to come forward in identifying the people who have not yet got CNICs, FAFEN emphasizes that citizen and voter registration should concentrate more on remote areas where the deficit in voter registration is comparatively higher.
ECP also has responsibility to motivate eligible voters with a public education campaign on radio and television that provides the location, procedure, and deadline for adding and correcting names on the voters list. FAFEN encourages political parties, civil society and media to give their full cooperation to this public education and mobilization effort.