sisophon, Banteay Meanchey province – Meas Yin was happy to come to vote but wasn’t sure what to do. She took the ballot paper, walked to the polling booth, hesitated a moment and then wandered over to her husband who had just cast his vote.
“Where do I tick?” she asked him as he was leaving the Sophy School polling station Sunday.
Ever vigilant, two officials leapt up from behind the desk.
“You can’t ask him!” one said. “If you don’t understand you must ask the staff here.”
Meas Yin was told to put a tick in the box of her choice.
“Of your choice,” barked the officials one more time as she walked back to the booth.
“I just wanted to know how to tick,” she laughed afterwards.
Meas Yin was not the first confused voter to enter the polling station, said election observer Chamroeun Puth, taking notes behind a school bench.
“We are not happy with the people voting here because they have not received voter training on how to fold the paper and vote,” said Chamroeun Puth, a member of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections. “They are confused, some pick up the paper and just put it in the box without ticking.”
The provincial election commission should have done more voter education, he added.
But voter turnout appeared high at this polling station, one of four on the Sophy School site in Sisophon’s Kompong Svay district. By 11 am, only 100 people out of 620 registered in this station had not yet cast their votes. Polling station official Oula Vantha was confident everyone would show up to vote, despite the sultry weather.
“People were waiting for a long time to vote this morning,” she said, “They were all sweating and hot.”
NGO worker Sean Kosal had taken one look at the long lines at 7 am and decided to return later in the day. He made the right decision, he said.
“It’s hot and people were waiting for a long time this morning. Now I can vote easily,” he said.
As lunch time approached, the lines were diminishing. Voters were passing through the polling station here in 15 minutes. Even the party agents had disappeared to get something to eat.
But Son Sann Party activist Lim Sokhan was still diligently taking notes. She had been at the school since 7 am, with one hour off to vote herself in O Ampil district. She was more concerned about voting conditions there.
“If was so dark in the room I had to hold my ballot paper to the light to see it,” she said, adding she would make a complaint. “I’m worried people couldn’t see properly to vote.”