Thai expats to register online to vote

Thai expats to register online to vote

Expat Thais will be able to register to vote online in the next general election, a move which could boost overseas voter turnout, the Election Commission said Thursday. 

A memorandum of understanding to bring about online registration for Thais living overseas was signed Thursay by Election Commission secretary-general Puchong Nutrawong, the Interior Ministry's Department of Provincial Administration director-general Pol Lt Arthit Boonyasopat, and the Foreign Ministry's Department of Consular Affairs director-general Thongchai Chasawat.

Online registration will give a boost to online voting, as it is more convenient than the former process, which required expat Thais to fill out and mail paper forms ahead of advanced voting.

Online voter registration is the first step toward having online voting,  Election Commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn said.

"The online registration will help overseas Thais exercise their rights to vote even if there is political instability in their countries of residence," said Mr Somchai.

Online voter registration will be open from Dec 15 until 30 days before the next general election, which is expected around mid-2017, he said.

Out of the estimated two million overseas Thais who are eligible to vote, only 40,000-70,000 people cast ballots in previous elections.

Online voting eliminates the costs of mailing ballot papers to Thailand from Thai consulates and embassies around the world.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs spends about 70 million baht collecting ballots from overseas countries, and since only 70,000 people come out to vote, it costs roughly 10,000-15,000 baht per head each election, according to the Department of Consular Affairs director-general.

"The agreement made between the agencies will help the government save money on the electoral process and make voting more efficient,"  Mr Thongchai said.

"To reduce the cost per head, the government has to find ways to encourage more people to come out to vote."

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