Methodologies differ: Elections on Bureau of Stats’ voter count variance

Fiji’s Supervisor of Elections Mohammed Saneem says that the Fijian Elections voter count differ from that kept by the Bureau of Statistics because their registration methodologies differ.

Concerns were raised after FEO’s registered voters’ count for the 2018 elections, at 637,527, was higher than the estimated voting population provided by the bureau in their 2019/2020 Household and Income Expenditure Survey report, at 570,327.

“While this figure from the FBOS is an estimate to begin with, it does not hold against actual direct registration platforms such the voter registration data or even the latest statistics on those that have been vaccinated in terms of the numbers published by the Ministry of Health,” Saneem said.

“As at 14 September, the Ministry of Health has reported that 573,247 individuals have been vaccinated. The voter registration figures stood at 650,081 as at 31 December 2020.”

He also made reference to the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR)’s 2012 Handbook for the Observation of Voter Registration which noted the differences in registration methodology between the census and population registration to explain the differences in data.

Pointers highlighted in the handbook were consistent with the Multinational Observer Group’s findings and concluding remarks in their report on the 2018 General Election during which similar concerns were raised when voter registration data for the year’s election “contradict the results of Fiji’s 2017 census”. Stats then also showed that the population of voters kept with the FEO was higher than the number of voting-age population provided for in the census.

After having spoken with the FEO , the people at the bureau as well as academic and professional statisticians, the MOG also attributed the differences to different registration methodologies. The MOG further said: “The FEO collected its data continuously over four years and the census comprised data collected on a single day (and collected with a range of questions designed for multiple purposes). The MOG assesses that for the purpose of maintaining the voter register, the FEO methodology was robust, as a result of the continuous updating and biometric technology.”

As at 30 June 2021, Fiji’s National Register of Voters count stands at 651,168. In the meantime, Saneem says, the FEO is preparing for the publication for the first provisional polling station voter lists for the 2022 General Election which is due at month end as per Section 40 of the amended Electoral Act.

The FEO will carry out three rounds of voter list verification directly with agencies on the ground including the Turaga-ni-Koro, and area advisory councilors.

Political parties will also be provided soft copies of the first provisional list at no fee to carry out their own verification. They will however be charged for subsequent voter lists.

The FEO will collect the responses from all verification sources, review it to organise the 2022 Nationwide Voter Registration Drive which will start on 25 February next year.

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