75 percent turnout in active, trouble-free early voting
The Election Commission (EC) described today’s early voting as smooth and trouble-free, with 75% of the two million registered early voters casting ballots ahead of the general election next Sunday.
Speaking after polling stations closed, EC deputy secretary-general Mr. Nath Laoseesaovakul said that there was only one incident in the western province of Uthai Thani where one early voter was caught using another person’s ID card to vote. The man was taken into custody by police for questioning.
Regarding complaints from some voters that they were given the incorrect ballot form, Mr. Nath explained that, if a voter sees that their ballot paper is incorrect, they should simply tell officials at the polling station and they will be given the correct ballot and the incorrect one will be destroyed. However, if the incorrect ballot has already been inserted into the ballot box, the ballot would be regarded as valid.
All the ballot boxes in Bangkok have been taken to the post office in Laksi district for sorting over the next 48 hours. Then they will be sent to the 350 constituencies nationwide for safe-keeping until March 24th when the early ballots will be counted along with the ballots cast on that day. Any early voting ballots sent to the wrong constituency will be declared null and void, said Mr. Nath, adding that, if anyone is worried that the ballot sheets might be deliberately misplaced, they can seek permission to observe the keeping of the ballot boxes at all times.
Mr. Nath also ruled out the possibility of ballot boxes being tampered with or switched during transportation to the constituencies from the Lak Si post office, assuring that the delivery process is closely monitored.
Thai PBS news teams reported that early voters packed all polling units in Bangkok and in most provinces nation-wide throughout the day to cast their ballots in a rare show of electoral enthusiasm after eight years without a general election.
Voters were seen arriving at polling stations, located in schools, district offices and temples in Bangkok and in elsewhere, even before voting officially started at 8am.
Queues of enthusiastic citizens formed under the supervision of city officials charged with ensuring orderly and smooth voting.
The polling station at Bang Sue district office was packed for most of the day. At 4 pm, about one hour before closing time, voters were still seen heading toward the polling station.
Traffic on Prachachuen and Rim Klong Prapa roads was heavily congested as city officials had allowed parking on the roadside, effectively narrowing the road space.
In Bangkok’s Dusit district, which is home to many military barracks, army conscripts were trucked to the polling station at Sukhothai School to cast their votes as most of them will not be free next Sunday when they will be performing duties related to Coronation.
In Chiang Mai about 50,000 registered early voters, many of them wearing face masks, turned up at the nine poll locations to cast the ballots. PM2.5 dust level today was reported at 122 microns, far above the 50-micron standard level, but it did not discourage voters eager to exercise their rights.
In the restive southern province of Pattani, security was tight in and around polling stations and motorcycles were barred from parking anywhere nearby as a precaution against motorcycles rigged with explosive devices. About 14,000 people registered for early voting in Pattani province.