Poll officer fears a total ban would keep young voters away

Voters can carry cell phones with them to polling booths on Sunday but they should keep them switched off, said Harsh Gupta, Election Officer, Dakshina Kannada.

He said that voters should not use their cell phones in 100m radius of polling booths. He said that agents of political parties in booths should not carry cell phones with them. If allowed, there were chances of them informing their party colleagues outside about those who have not cast their vote. Such voters may be enticed to vote for a particular party.

Mr. Gupta said that presiding officers and other election officials in booths could carry cell phones with them. They should keep them in silent mode. It would be allowed for enabling senior election officials outside to interact with them in case of emergency.

In the elections to Mangalore City Corporation council on March 7 at booth No. 40 at Mahalingeshwara English Medium School under Idya West (no. 7) ward, a police constable snatched the cell phone of a girl who had come for voting.

When presspersons visited the booth, the girl, who was voting for the first time, said that the constable asked her to pay Rs. 1,000 as fine at Surathkal police station to get back the phone. The girl had said that she was telling her brother on phone that her name was missing in the voters’ list though she had Voter’s ID.

After mediapersons brought the matter to the notice of the presiding officer, he intervened and got the phone back for the girl after cautioning her. People had argued that the Election Commission should have displayed a board outside the booth that carrying cell phones had been banned.

But according to a circular of the Election Commission, “…cellular phones, cordless phones etc. not to be allowed except officers on duty in the 100 meters of a polling station…during polling, presiding officers and other staff shall keep their mobile switched off in the polling station. If required, they can talk from outside the polling booth…”

Another senior official in the commission told The Hindu that not allowing voters to carry cell phones with them may discourage some voters from exercising their franchise. The intention of the Election Commission was to ensure that all cast their votes and voting percentage went up. Banning cell phones should not be a reason for voters to turn away from polling stations.

No separate queue

Voters with physical disabilities should be given priority for entering polling station without making them wait in queue, said the Election Commission. The commission issued a circular to this effect on October 26, 2007. According to it, full facility will be provided to take their wheelchairs inside the polling station.

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