In the wake of mounting concerns that at least 1 million people could lose their right to vote on Sunday, the National Election Committee (NEC) on Monday announced that disenfranchised voters could try calling one of five phone numbers if their name is missing from the voter list.
The NEC said it will also deploy six officials to each of the country’s 19,009 polling stations, which will be open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday.
Voters who cannot find their names on the voter list can approach an official for assistance, or they can call one of the five numbers, which will only be in operation on Sunday.
“The second assistant will help voters find their names and numbers on the voting lists,” the NEC said in a statement.
But Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Comfrel), said Monday that it was highly unlikely such an 11th-hour set-up could be of any help at this stage in the election process, and he expressed concern that voters who are turned away may react strongly to their disenfranchisement.
“I’m very concerned about conflict because many voters are motivated by their parties, especially the ruling and opposition party, and they are very committed to vote.
“So at the polling station if they cannot find their name, they will be angry and I’m really concerned,” he said.
Mr. Panha added that Comfrel had already presented the NEC with a written sample of registered voters whose names are still missing from the voter list a few weeks ago, “but so far I haven’t gotten a positive response,” he said.
“They have all the evidence they need, like ID cards and information since the [voter] list was made in 2012, but they cannot find their names. They [NEC] did not respond. How will they respond to the problem on the day?…. They have no solution for [those people].”
Two independent audits of the voter list found a series of flaws that would lead to a significant number of people finding themselves unable to cast a vote this weekend.
More than 1 in 10 people who are registered to vote do not appear on the voter list, and 9 percent of previous voters have been taken off local voting lists unfairly, the Washington-based National Democratic Institute found in its audit of the voter list.
A Comfrel survey estimated that 1.25 million voters could lose their right to vote on Sunday.
Under mounting pressure nationally and internationally, earlier this month the NEC released the results of its own audit of the voter list, which found that the names of 9 percent of registered voters could not be found.
In addition to that, the NEC said that 13 percent of names had been entered incorrectly.
NEC Secretary-General Tep Nytha continued to insist Monday that people still enjoy the right to vote.
“It’s the first time that the NEC has installed a hotline for voters to contact us when they cannot find their names at polling stations on polling day,” he said.
“In the previous election, we received information from some NGOs that there were some voters who couldn’t vote after they were not able to find their names. But we have never received complaints about missing names on polling days.”