Voter Registration and Its Importance

The term 'voter' is the citizen eligible to vote in the elections and 'registration' is the process of registering or being registered name of the eligible citizen in voter roll. Voter Registration is the right of all eligible citizens to participate in the affairs of their government and is one of the cornerstones of Democracy. Perhaps the most fundamental form of participation is voting in free and fair elections. For citizens to exercise their democratic right to vote there must be a comprehensive and inclusive electoral register, also called a voters list; and this must be carefully maintained to ensure that each eligible citizen is registered to vote once and only once in a single election or poll. According to the Wikipedia, voter registration is the requirement in some democracies for citizens and residents to check in with some central registry specifically for the purpose of being allowed to vote in elections. It is said that elections are the heart of democracy. Only a free, fair and inclusive electoral system and associated processes can contribute to the meaningful institutionalization of democracy and gain popular trust. This is only possible if all citizens come under the voter registration process and participate in elections. The fundamental purpose of a voter-registration system is to restrict access to the voting booth — to ensure that only those people entitled to vote in a given jurisdiction can do so, and that they each vote only once. Voter registration brings eligible people into the election process, ensures the equality of the vote and prevents ineligible people from voting. This voter registration with photograph helps to provide an opportunity to identify the eligible person for claim & objection about voter eligibility provides huge information about how many people are eligible to vote and how they are distributed around the country. Importance of Voter Registration It is said that voter registration provides citizens with an opportunity to exercise their democratic and constitutional rights and duties, like choose a leader of their choice; compete in elections; safeguard their rights and freedoms as provided in the constitution, and; for political involvement. Voter registration helps to ensure the political rights from fraud and manipulation. If an individual registration is not done, individuals might be able to vote more than once in the same election and/or cross precinct lines to vote outside of their district. Furthermore, jury pools are drawn from voter registration lists. Voter registration is important to policy makers, academia, government, researchers, political parties and citizens for their own purpose. It gives a complete national identity which helps to ensure a free, fair and fearless environment in election. Registration lists may also be used for other purposes. Election administrators can use them to help determine the best locations for polling places, how many voting stations and poll workers to assign to a given polling place, voter turnout, and so forth. Other government agencies may use the lists, for example to help generate jury pools. Political parties and candidates also use the lists for campaign-related activities such as direct mail. Status of Voter Registration in Nepal The voter registration is the main activity of the Election Commission of Nepal being carried out throughout the country at present. The registration was started on September 15, 2010 in 43 districts. The Election Commission of Nepal (ECN) has been launching a voter registration initiative with photograph in combination with several voter education programs for the elimination of all kinds of fraud and fraudulent activities and brings credibility of the entire election system. It has conducted digitally collecting voters' fingerprints, photographs and personal information. It has expected to provide clear and fast identification of voters, discourages fraud voting, identify entitle voter remove duplication and update voter roll ensuring the participation of excluded group (women, ethnic minority). According to the ECN, a more accurate and reliable register is expected to be produced for the upcoming elections. The ECN's effort indicates that the registration exercise will result in the compilation of an entirely new voters' register that will replace the manual registration. Every registered voter must therefore be registered anew. Those who have now turned eighteen years are also eligible to register as voters. They can register their name from District Administration Office whenever they want.

The ECN is implementing voter registration in accordance with the interim constitution of Nepal 2007, the voter's Roll act 2006 and the voters' Roll Rules 2007. According to the Gopal Prasad Aryal, representative of Election Commission of Nepal, around 11 million of Nepalese citizens have included under voter registration process along with their photographs. Among them 48.15 percent are male and 51.85 percent are female. He said the number of men registering their names might have decreased as many men are abroad on foreign employment.
Despite various geographical, political and other constraints in voter registration process, Election Commission of Nepal successfully completed the initiative. Commission has been adopting awareness raising activities in coordination with various GOs, I/NGOs and civil societies to incorporate those citizens who are not included in registration process.
Voter Registration in Karnali
Karnali is that place where most of people live a life of poverty, illiteracy, unemployment and disease. It was severely affected by ten years long armed conflict and most of the youths and educated people migrated to India or gulf countries in search of jobs and opportunities as a result of which Karnali couldn't be included into clean and clear voter registration process. The unavailability of citizenship, lack of awareness, civic education, democratic values, norms and cultures are the major constraints of people's deprivation in registration process.
The statistics of Election Commission of Nepal (ECN) shows that maximum number of citizens is not registered than the voter's list of CA election in Karnali. A total of 140,000 (Mugu-21,000, Dolpa- 13,000, Jumla-40,000, Humla-19,000 and Kalikot-47,000) voters have come under registration process(Source Election Commission of Nepal). According to the Gopal Prasad Aryal representative of ECN, the fake voter name lists and double entry are excluded which was included in CA election 2008. He accepted that many citizens of Karnali are not registered in voter list who are out of country. Some people are not aware about the importance of voter registration. According to him, Election Commission is planning to incorporate those citizens by conducting various program and activity related with voter registration.
Considering all these problems and constraints and the prevailing situation of Karnali as described above, Jagaran Nepal in partnership with Himalaya Conservation and Development Association(HCDA) and local organizations is implementing 'Electoral Education at Grassroots and District Level for Democratic Governance (EEDG) project with the objective to contribute towards strengthening the role of citizens in the electoral process so as to ensure a responsive, accountable and democratically elected government. The project is funded by European Union which has a focus on awareness program for voter registration. The program supports and motivates people to register their name and enjoy their political as well as civil rights. This action ultimately will contribute for democratic governance of Karnali zone.
Voter registration is the fundamental task that creates the environment of free, fair and credible election system. The voter registration task carried out by Election Commission of Nepal is commendable and pioneering. Election Commission has accomplished different local and national level elections which were not out of controversy. It is remarkable that good governance is only possible after free, fair and credible election system and free, fair and credible election system can be ensured after clean and clear voter registration system. Every citizen need to be aware and educated for proper registration and this is the rights of every citizens to be better informed, capacitated and aware. A single effort of Election Commission cannot be enough to bring all eligible voters into mainstream and all civil societies, government organizations, non government organizations and concerned stakeholders must pay their attention to make initiative of Election Commission more successful.