Record number of Bougainville voters enrolled for referendum

Over 200,000 people are eligible to vote in the upcoming referendum on Bougainville‘s independence from Papua New Guinea.

BRC director of operations, Desmond Tisanei, (left) and chief referendum officer Mauricio Claudio. Photo: Supplied

The Bougainville Referendum Commission has completed the official ‘certified voter list‘ to be used in polling, which begins on 23 November.

The commission‘s chief referendum officer, Mauricio Claudio, announced that the number of voters on the roll is 206,731.

“This represents about a twenty percent increase relative to the roll used in the 2015 ABG general elections. I‘m also happy to report the gender ratio of the roll is actually better than the gender ratio in the 2011 census, the last census taken in Bougainville.”

According to Mr Claudio, about 51 percent of voters are male and almost 49 percent are female.

The compilation of the roll was the result of the most comprehensive and thorough enrolment exercise ever conducted in Bougainville, he said.

That was echoed by the chairman of the commission, Bertie Ahern, a former prime minister of Ireland.

“We believe we have gone above and beyond any electoral process in Papua New Guinea to comprehensively enrol eligible voters in Bougainville, elsewhere in Papua New Guinea, and for the first time, overseas in Australia and Solomon Islands,” Mr Ahern said.

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“To do this, we have employed the local knowledge of community governments and grass-roots officials over three phases and many months.”

The final phase of enrolment in September, when the preliminary roll was open for public display and challenge, had provided many people with one last chance to check the roll and add their name, Mr Ahern said.

Bougainvilleans check the voter roll ahead of their region‘s independence referendum Photo: Bougainville Referendum Commission

“Over 4000 people Bougainvilleans used the public display period to help us correct errors, double entries or get themselves enrolled.

“We are delighted at the high level of knowledge and engagement in the process to produce a credible roll, particularly the wide use of our SMS roll check service.”

With the commission determined that everyone eligible to vote gets a chance to vote, the referendum will allow provisional voting.

A person may turn up to vote and find that their name is not on the roll at that particular polling station. He or she will be offered a provisional ballot which will be checked later to make sure the person is indeed entitled to vote.

“Provisional voting is not a way for people who have not enrolled to vote in the referendum,” Mr Claudio said, adding that enrolment was now closed.

“Anyone who wishes to vote in the referendum without having enrolled will be committing an electoral offence.

“Only those who have enrolled according to the law are entitled to vote in the referendum.”

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