For some, it was a point of pride or a sense of duty, and for some others, it was a lack of awareness as many senior citizens aged above 80 and Persons with Disabilities (PwD) came to the voting booths instead of choosing the novel postal ballot option provided to them during this year’s election. Across the State, it was a common sight for these people, including nonagenarians and centenarians, to arrive at the voting stations and either take the help of wheelchair or family members to cast their vote.
Nonagenarian Ameenabi Dhavalagi, 90, did not have the strength to stand for long but was keen to participate in the electoral process. “What is the use of my life if I do not vote?” she asked, sitting outside the polling booth on Gokul Road in Hubballi.
According to a release put out by the Election Commission prior to polling day, 76,120 of the total 12,15,920 senior citizens aged above 80, and 18,811 PwD out of total 5,71,281 had voted through the postal ballot method.
Mahadevamma, an 88-year-old senior citizen at Mahalakshmi Layout constituency, lamented that no one came to her house and offered her the option to vote from home. However, she made it to the booth as she did not want to miss the chance to vote.
In many districts, there was a common complaint that election officials nor anyone from local administration visited their homes to provide them the forms to vote from home nor was any awareness created about the method.
Gadigeppa, who brought his 88-year-old mother Kalamma to the booth at Government Higher Primary School in Shikaripura of Shivamogga district, said he was not aware of the facility. “No government staff visited our house to inquire about the elderly voters,” he said. Ms. Kalamma reached the polling booth in an autorickshaw. A policeman helped her to the polling booth from the gate.
In Ramanagara district, Usha Rani, a person with disability, said: “We don’t have any information about home voting facilities. Nobody told us about this, and nobody came to our doorstep in this regard. I came to vote with help from my son.”
Specially-abled Gopi R., 30, came with his mother Radha to cast his vote at the polling booth at Tilaknagar in Bengaluru. Mr. Gopi said there was no wheelchair available at the polling station.
Some others did not opt for the facility by choice. For example, Shivanna, an 82-year-old voter at Vijayanagar constituency, said he was afraid that his choice would be changed or manipulated if he voted through postal ballot. Hence, he came to the polling booth. While there, he said that the options on the EVM were not clearly visible to him, and he did not receive much assistance from officials.
For a few more senior citizens, it was about continuing their decades-long tradition of going to the polling booth. One among them was 107-year-old agriculturist Mijaraguthu Anand Alva in Moodbidri (father of Alva’s Education Foundation chairman M. Mohan Alva). After he cast his vote, one of his close aides, told The Hindu: “He has never missed voting in any election.”
Ratnamma and Narayanamma, both 102-year-old, who cast their votes at Kammarachedu village in Ballari district and Bagalur village in Yelahanka taluk, were among some centenarians who made it to the booths on Wednesday.