Thailand’s electoral system may be struggling to keep up with its demographic transition. I recently received the following message from a friend in Bangkok.

This upcoming referendum is another important event of Thai politics. I have just registered my name at the Jatujak district, Bangkok, to have a right to cast my vote on the referendum as my name is in a census record in Chiang Mai. The registration requires a number of legal/official documents such as a copy of ID, a copy of census record, and a letter of reference. This process automatically limits the numbers of people who can make their votes. I am thinking of the numbers of workers in Bangkok whose names are in census records in other provinces. There are very many of them.

Here is a copy of the application form that my friend had to complete: form-13.pdf. As bureaucratic procedures go this may not be particularly onerous, but I suspect that many people unable or unwilling to travel home to cast their votes simply don’t bother making an application. Producing a “letter of reference” confirming the current place of residence may be an important disincentive for many potential applicants. And for many the time spent away from work while they lodge the application may also pose a problem.

Why can’t there be a simpler and more accessible “absentee vote” system?