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Voter registration in the time of Covid-19: Suggestions for safe registration practices in Timor-Leste

July 01, 2021

Electoral management bodies (EMBs) around the world are currently faced with operational challenges and requirements for adaptations due to the Covid-19 pandemic. While many voters look towards election day and their safety at the polls, EMBs have already begun work to ensure safe practices are implemented in pre-election day activities, including voter registration.

Voter registration is arguably one of the most important pre-election period activities, as an accurate voter roll ensures equitable participation in elections, can enhance voter turnout, and can support the smooth functioning of polling station operations.  Despite the possible challenges that voter registration can bring in the face of Covid-19, according to Michael Maley, International IDEA’s Principal International Expert advising Timor-Leste, the country can also use this process as a great “opportunity to build public confidence in the Technical Secretariat of Electoral Administration’s (STAE) commitment and ability to run a Covid-resilient operation.”

International IDEA is currently providing suggestions on Covid-19-safe voter registration to the EMBs of Timor-Leste under the project “Covid-Resilient Elections in Timor-Leste”.  Implemented in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), STAE and the National Commission on Elections (CNE) and funded by the Governments of Japan and Timor-Leste, the project will advise the country’s EMBs on the conduct of safe and credible 2022 elections in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Suggestions proposed by International IDEA include ensuring that registration centers are well ventilated, using outside spaces where possible; the maintenance of social distancing through effective queue control; the full vaccination of registration staff to the greatest degree possible; and the use of widely accepted personal protection and sanitisation measures.  

Key to the successful implementation of these proposed measures is strong capacity building and knowledge raising for registration staff, as well as capturing lessons that might be used in further operations and training across the electoral process.  

Timor-Leste launches voter registration today, 1 July 2021, in a ceremony with political parties, media, civil society organizations, observers and the general public.  As noted by Acilino Manuel Branco, Director General of STAE, “it is very important that everyone spreads information about voter registration to ensure high rates of participation in the coming general elections; voter registration is a very important step in the readiness of the upcoming elections.”

Learn more on Covid-19 considerations across Timor-Leste’s electoral process, and stay tuned for updates on future International IDEA activities including the development of a Covid-resilient election plan and manual and the development of materials and capacity building training for election staff.   

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