Sri Lanka’s electoral framework currently provides for restricted advance voting, granting early voting options only for polling officials and public servants engaged in election duties or emergency services on election day. Although voter turnout in Sri Lankan elections has been relatively high in the past, the disenfranchisement of certain categories and types of voters is seen as a shortcoming in the electoral process. Thus, the introduction of advance voting in Sri Lanka has been promoted by the civil society sector for over two decades, with the aim of facilitating voter enfranchisement and ensuring the votes of traditionally underrepresented voters.
This issue of early voting came to the forefront in Sri Lanka in the country’s most recent elections as well, in light of the parliamentary elections in August 2020 having to take place amidst the covid-19 pandemic. Advance voting thus received broader support amongst stakeholders who recognised that holding elections during a health pandemic could seriously limit voter participation and inhibit the electoral process.
DRI Sri Lanka’s latest briefing paper looks at the need for implementing advance voting for Sri Lanka’s elections. The prospect of establishing advance voting in Sri Lanka is examined from an international and national perspective and considering international obligations and good practices for democratic elections. The paper suggests a roadmap for considering advance voting options, as well as recommendations for moving toward effective adoption and implementation of such electoral reform.