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Updated: January 28, 2010 02:34 IST

Compulsory voting not feasible, says Chawla

Special Correspondent
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Chief Election Commissioner Navin Chawla said while the SC believed in voter education and awareness, compulsory voting is not feasible. Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi went on to say it was undemocratic. File photo
The Hindu Chief Election Commissioner Navin Chawla said while the SC believed in voter education and awareness, compulsory voting is not feasible. Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi went on to say it was undemocratic. File photo

Chief Election Commissioner Navin Chawla on Wednesday felt that it was not possible to make voting compulsory nationwide. It was for Parliament to debate and decide on the subject.

“I have to preface this by saying that it is for Parliament to debate, discuss and enact. When that happens, we will see, he said.”

Mr. Chawla was talking to journalists during an international symposium on ‘Sharing best electoral practices,’ organised here as part of the diamond jubilee celebrations of the Election Commission.

The Commission believed in promoting voter education. The thrust was on voter education, awareness and bringing in the youth from the campuses.

Mr. Chawla said: “The country has a large number of unorganised labourers. If a child falls sick, one cannot expect the mother to go out and vote. If the child is not well and what will the mother, an unorganised worker, do? Are we going to collect medical certificates? We have at the moment about 60 per cent of our population casting their votes.”

Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi felt that compulsory voting was undemocratic. “Democracy and compulsion do not go hand-in-hand. Our stand is very clear: voter education is the key, and not compulsion.”

Vladimir E. Churov, chairman of the Central Electoral Commission of the Russian Federation, said he was studying India’s electronic voting machines (EVMs) and distribution of elector photo identity cards for adoption in his country.

Mr. Churov, who was here to attend the diamond jubilee celebrations, told journalists that EVMs were cheaper and simpler than the ballot papers or the touch screen and scanners that Russia experimented in the recent elections.

“Russia does not have a voter identity card system. But countries such as India, France and Peru do. While in the Indian system, there is no way of recording the polling by a voter on his/her identity card, in other countries such facilities have been provided. We are studying them.”

He said the Central Electoral Commission in Russia had no powers to suggest new electoral laws; it could only implement the existing ones.

Officers in charge of elections from more than 20 countries took part in the symposium. The representative from Thailand said his country had the compulsory voting law.

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