Cambodia’s new computerized voter registration system has caught 19,000 cases of duplicate names, the country’s top election official said this week, as official figures show that 2 million eligible voters may be left unregistered by this month’s deadline.
National Election Committee (NEC) president Sik Bun Hok met with E.U. Ambassador George Edgar on Monday and discussed technical issues with the registration system, according to a statement released by the committee. The system was set up with the assistance of the E.U. and Japan.
“There are 19,000 cases of duplicated names in the list the NEC has compiled. They will be deleted and shown at the time of the first release of the voter list,” Mr. Bun Hok told Mr. Edgar, according to the statement.
NEC spokesman Hang Puthea said on Wednesday that the reasons for the duplications included slow internet connections at commune offices that caused some registrars to submit registrations several times and people who recently moved to new addresses and registered again in their new communes.
“Some had two national identification cards with two different names, so they went to register in two separate places. But we checked and found that the fingerprint samples were the same,”
Mr. Puthea said, adding that no penalties would be handed down since the duplications appeared accidental.
After more than two months, the NEC has now registered 6.9 million voters out of the 9.7 million eligible, a total of about 72 percent. However, the rate of new registrations has dropped in recent weeks, with daily registrations down to about 30,000 a day from a peak of up to 200,000.
At this pace, about 7.5 million voters will be registered by the November 27 deadline, or about 77 percent of potential voters, leaving more than 2 million unregistered.
“The majority of them are migrant workers,” Mr. Puthea said of those who had not yet registered. “They face difficulties to return to the country for registration, and the NEC can’t hope that all of them will come to cast a vote.”
Koul Panha, executive director for the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said there was still more to be done to push young residents to vote and for migrant workers abroad to pressure the government to open channels for their registration and ballots.
“This time, we’re confident about the quality,” Mr. Panha said of the voter list, “but concerned about the quantity of the registration rate.”
Mr. Panha said it was not yet clear why registrations were slow, but also pointed to Cambodian workers living abroad, along with urban youth who found the process tedious and migrant workers within the country who had neither the time nor documentation to register.
“It’s not easy with migrant workers,” Mr. Panha said. “We need to carry out big reform in that regard.”
Mu Sochua, the CNRP lawmaker overseeing the party’s registration efforts, said she suspected that the official total of 9.7 million eligible voters was too high.
“We go door-to-door and we can’t find people. There are so few people who have not registered,” she said.
naren@cambodiadaily.com, dickison@cambodiadaily.com
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