Low turnout: Not poll apathy, but out-of-sync voter lists, say analysts and citizens

There is a need to improve voting percentage and political parties need to introspect why their manifestos and candidates are not able to inspire confidence in voters to come out enthusiastically, they add

Published - May 11, 2023 10:01 pm IST - Bengaluru

Voters at a polling booth in Okalipuram on Wednesday.

Voters at a polling booth in Okalipuram on Wednesday. | Photo Credit: SUDHAKARA JAIN


Does half of Bengaluru not vote? Or is there something more to it? As the numbers for Bengaluru released by the Election Commission on Thursday showed 55% voter turnout barring postal votes and home voting, experts and civic group activists say errors in voter rolls like duplication, deletion, and mismatched entries that send voters from one booth to another are reasons for the underwhelming numbers.

The Election Commission and the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) undertook various awareness drives to ensure better voter turnout, including some with resident welfare associations and other civic groups. The Election Commission had also fixed a mid-weekday to prevent people from taking advantage of the “voting day holiday” by clubbing it with the weekend. However, Bengaluru’s turnout did not see any major deviation from earlier trends. Among the four divisions, BBMP Central saw a turnout of 55.5%, BBMP North 52.59%, BBMP South 52.33%, and Bengaluru Urban 57.69%. Meanwhile, Karnataka voter turnout is at 73.19%.

Speaking to The Hindu, electoral roll analyst P.G. Bhat said that the Election Commission should spend resources on correcting the electoral rolls instead of putting all energy and time to conduct awareness drives. “I have been telling this for decades that the problem in voter turnout in Bengaluru is the ‘menace of missing names’ of genuine voters. Elections officials had deleted lakhs of entries in an effort to clean up the rolls. However, there have been many wrong deletions, leading to the disenfranchisement of genuine voters. Since the electoral system is insincere, voters get confused and frustrated and this leads to a poorer turnout,” Mr. Bhat said.

Civic activists also point out that improper deletions and duplicate entries are important reasons for low voter turnout. “Election after election, Bengaluru gets flak for low voter turnout. Did you know that Chennai had 59% and Mumbai 51% in their last Assembly election?” civic activist Srinivas Alavilli asked.

“The issue is not apathy, but out-of-sync voter lists in mega cities that have a lot of migration and inter-city movement. Duplicate entries, voters going back to native to vote, improper deletions - these are known issues. If the baseline itself is wrong, the percentage will also be incorrect,” he said.

“This is not to absolve citizens. There is certainly a need to improve voting percentage and political parties need to introspect why their manifestos and candidates are not able to inspire confidence in voters to come out enthusiastically,” Mr. Alavilli added.

This year, the worst three constituencies in terms of voter turnout are Bommanahalli (47.36%), CV Raman Nagar (47.44%), and BTM Layout (48.84%), while the best are Yelahanka (62.67%), Anekal (62.31%), and Yeswantpur (63.23%).

Supriya Krishana, a resident of Bommanahalli, said: “There were a lot of issues in the electoral roll. We had to wait and run around to find our names in the list. Apart from this, when my family members wanted to register for the rolls, we had to face unfriendly officials. All this makes voters frustrated.”

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