The district stood fourth in the State in terms of highest polling percentage with 83.9 per cent in the local body elections but close to 6 per cent of the votes cast by the rural voters for the posts of District Panchayat Ward Members (DPWM) has been turned down as invalid. Of the total 6,20,866 voters who cast their votes for the post of DPWM, a total 36,752 were invalid.
Most number of invalid votes was registered in Ward No. 3 (7.63 per cent) where 3,219 of the total 42,190 votes were invalid. The least was in ward number 12 with 1,131 invalid votes of the total 24,042 votes polled. Of the 17 district panchayat wards, eight registered 1,100 to 2,000 invalid votes, while nine registered more than 2,000 or 3,000 invalid votes.
Officials at the District Election Cell said that some votes were classified as invalid due to the following reasons: ballot papers without casting vote, casting vote for more than one candidate in the same ballot sheet and for casting the vote in the blank spaces in the ballot sheet instead of doing so against the name of the candidate.
They noted that some voters who wanted to show their loyalty to the candidates of their choice wrote their names or initials in the space set aside for marking with the seal, not realising that their votes would get invalid.
Use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) at the urban local bodies prevented such alarming number of invalid votes in the municipalities and town panchayats. Only 12 votes for the post of Municipal Chairman and 22 for the post of ward councillor in the five municipalities were invalid and all of them were postal votes, the officials clarified.
Leaders of various political parties opined that the number of invalid votes did not make a big difference between the winners and losers for the post of DPWM, but there were more chances of many candidates not losing their deposits. It could also have increased the percentage of votes secured by the political parties, they added.
“Such a large number of invalid votes would hinder the winning chances of candidates contesting in the panchayat unions and village panchayats,” says DMK district secretary and Union Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare S. Gandhiselvan.
The Minister told The Hindu that rural voters got confused as they cast the vote for four different posts and expressed the need to educate them on casting their votes. He also suggested that more EVMs should be brought from other States as each rural polling station needed four EVMs – one each for the four posts – to cast their votes as valid ones.