Provision for postal voting is enshrined in law but has not been exercised in many years
Registered voters can exercise their franchise at the ballot box or through the post when Bangladesh goes to the polls at the end of next month, even though the postal voting system has not been used in many years.
Article 27 of the Representation of the People Order (RPO) and section 8 of the Voters’ List Act stipulate the details of postal voting.
According to the electoral law, postal votes can be cast by anyone tasked with polling duties, by government employees who live elsewhere for a job posting, and by expatriates and prisoners.
A circular issued by the Election Commission issued on November 12 said public servants based away from their constituencies for work purposes and prisoners need to apply to their respective returning officers within 15 days of the polls schedule announcement.
Officials who will work during the election need to apply to their respective returning officers as soon as they are assigned to discharge polling-related duties.
The circular did not mention the deadline for Bangladeshi expatriates; however, an Election Commission official said they will also have to apply within 15 days of the poll schedule announcement.
Upon receipt of the applications, returning officers will send a postal ballot paper along with an envelope to the voter. The postal ballot must include the name of the recipient, constituency and serial number in the voter list.
The voter will mark his or her vote and return the ballot paper in the envelope. The post needs to include a certificate of posting issued by an official of the post office with the circular via post and rubber stamp seal.
The returning officer will take into account the postal votes they received within the timeframe. Votes received after polls close will not be counted.
Election Commission Deputy Secretary Atiar Rahman said the commission had issued a circular regarding postal ballots, but admitted that several issues were not made clear in the circular.
“Nobody has cast votes via postal ballot even after having the opportunity (and) this is why clarity was not required in the circular,” the deputy secretary said. “We need to meet with the officials of the post office regarding the matter.”
Postal ballots are usually distributed and placed in return mail before the scheduled Election Day.
During the 2016 US Presidential election, around 33 million ballots - about 25% of the total - were cast via mailed out ballots, a variation of postal voting.