Reason is not urban apathy, but not being in the voter list or not having a voter or identity card

Is the demographic composition of the voting population a true reflection of the demographic composition of the country’s population? New data for Delhi indicates that marginalised groups are less likely to be registered or vote, but the Election Commission is narrowing this gap.

A survey commissioned by the Commission shows that Muslims, new migrants, women and young people are less likely to be registered and vote than others. The Commission’s own analysis of the data also shows that Delhi’s voter rolls skew older and more male than the general population.

As part of the Systematic Voter Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) Action Plan prepared by the EC for every State, Delhi’s Chief Electoral Officer commissioned a baseline survey from the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) in June, and analysed its own data as well.

The report was obtained under a Right to Information application by Rama Nath Jha, director of Transparency International India’s Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre. “These studies give an unprecedented insight into voter behaviour,” Mr. Jha told The Hindu.

For its baseline survey, the CSDS selected a sample of 25 Assembly constituencies in Delhi of which 14 had a moderate to high voter turnout in 2008 (above 55 per cent) and 11 had low turnout (below 55 per cent). The sample was of 4,736 respondents across 200 polling booths. Forty-six per cent of the sample was female, 8 per cent Muslims, 19 per cent Scheduled Castes and 22 per cent in the 18-25 age group. Twenty-nine per cent were lower middle class and 17 per cent poor. Recent migrants who moved to Delhi in the last 10 years, made up 12 per cent of the sample.

The CSDS found that 86 per cent of all respondents were registered to vote. This is substantially lower than the EC’s own estimates which, by July, when the CSDS survey was conducted, claimed that 96 per cent of the eligible population was registered to vote.

The registration ratio was low among young voters (68 per cent) and new migrants (64 per cent). Muslim registration was lower than the average for the city and lower still among poor Muslims (74 per cent).

Among those registered to vote, women (53 per cent), younger voters (52 per cent), Muslims (49 per cent), college graduates (48 per cent) and migrants who moved within the last five years (32 per cent) voted in lower numbers than the rest in the 2008 elections, implying that older, less educated, Hindu men voted in larger numbers. The biggest reasons for not voting were not apathy, but not being in the voter list (24 per cent), not having a voter card or an identity card (14 per cent and 18 per cent respectively).

‘Urban apathy’

Simultaneously, the Delhi CEO office analysed its draft electoral roll published in July and came up with its own findings. They found that the constituency with the lowest proportion of registered voters was New Delhi, which they attributed to “an element of urban apathy.”

The EC’s age-wise analysis of voters found that the proportion of 18-29 year-old voters to the total voters (19.57 per cent) was much lower than it was in the general population (24.74 per cent). As a result, those aged 30-80 were over-represented in the voting population.

“From being less than 1 per cent of the voting population in 2012, those in the 18-19 year age group are now 3.3 per cent of all voters, which is close to total enrolment,” Shurbir Singh, Delhi’s Special CEO, told The Hindu.

Similarly, the sex ratio had gone up from 788 per 1,000 men in the rolls to 805, he said.

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