Poor Voter Turnout! Who is to blame?

By Deepika Burli

Zaina Bei, a 78 year old resident of BTM Layout, Bangalore was denied to cast her vote on the morning of 17th April. Watching her walk out of the polling booth with a slip in hand but no mark on the thumb was indeed quite puzzling; not to mention the completely confused and helpless look she wore on her face.

Volunteering for the first time at a poll booth, I was assigned for the first half of the day to urge people around the area to vote. When I approached Zaina Bei, she told me that the officials seated inside the booth had said she was ineligible to vote because she did not have her voter ID card. However, she had her AADHAR card with her and had also found her name in the voter rolls which were reasons enough for her to cast her vote. The justification on the part of the officials was evidently very unconvincing and so along with a few known to Zaina, we spoke to the officials at the booth and made clear to them the entire scenario, after which she walked out of there having voted. Even better, her cause was made so loud that other senior citizens were given the privilege to vote before the rest as well.

It’s funny how electoral officials come across as so oblivious to rules and common people who have been voting every time have to bear the brunt of that. Zaina Bei would have walked back home in the scorching heat without casting her vote although she was very much eligible. “If they do not learn to apply their rules and send aged people away without letting them vote then it’s a loss of a viable vote,” said Zaina. “Having voted for every election, it is completely unacceptable for me to go back home without having done this duty.”

When it was time for me to help out with the voter registrations, I found it very hard to understand as to what process is actually followed while keying in the voter details in the rolls. First of all, looking for voter details in those numerous pages was done away with when we started using the App that was designed by the ‘Together with Nandan’ team. It was in a way quite relieving since we didn’t have to see extreme blunders in those books like three voter details of the same person, those of deceased people and many more.

But even then, the fact that a regular voter cannot find his/her name in the list, but the entire family of the same person was able to cast their votes was very unsettling. The worst part is when we as poll booth volunteers do not have an answer to a simple question they ask- “What is the reason for this?” I was told over there that these mistakes are very common to every election. Every time there are people who, out of the blue, do not find their names in the voter lists. It is for no apparent reason and nothing except for waiting until the next elections can be done.

When we reach out to people and urge them to vote, we do it with a responsibility and an assumption that they are eligible to vote and that they hopefully will. However, these major inconsistencies are extremely vital in nullifying the constant efforts in creating voter awareness and also in creating a block in the minds of the citizens regarding casting their votes.

Volunteering at a poll booth made me realize that it is not just a flaw in voter turnout but it could be something that can easily be amended by the system itself.

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