Friday, March 12, 2010

VOTERS’ WOES have no end

VOTERS’ WOES have no end
Ambiguity About Voters’ List Still Lingers | Many Are Unaware Of Importance Of This Election
Aarthi R | TNN

Bangalore: The wait for the BBMP polls may have ended. But there’s no end to voters’ woes. March 5 was the last date for voters to get themselves into the updated list. All those who submitted their forms on or before this deadline should find themselves on the third supplement that will be published 4-5 days after March 15, the last date for filing nominations.
But various organizations which have been working on the ground over the past few months on voters’ problems, aren’t too happy as the ambiguity about the list still lingers.
The additions and deletions apart, even the existing mother list on the official website (www.bbmpelections.info) is not quite updated. The October 15, 2009, list is an exact replica of the final voter list of the last parliamentary and assembly elections which have been spilt and listed wardwise.
“This is according to provisions of the Karnataka Municipal Corporation (KMC) Act. Further, we don’t have any role to play in correcting these lists,’’ say state election commission officials.
“The SEC must make the process more transparent. How can we work on an exact replica of the last assembly elections which had only 45% voter turnout? This, also considering the fact that quite a few went back home without voting as they were unable to find their names on the list,’’ observes Jasmine Shah, national co-ordinator, Janaagraha’s Jaagte Raho campaign launched last year for the local municipal body elections. Prithvi Reddy, co-founder of SmartVote, an organization that’s been on a door-to-door campaign in Koramangala for the past six months, echoes these observations. “Of the 66.17 lakh voters according to the SEC, we are sure at least 30-40% have errors. We’ve also proved it recently,’’ he says. So, who will address these issues?
“It’s the responsibility of both sides,’’ says Jasmine. He says, “Voter list updation is a continuous process. Further, voters must ensure they don’t wait for the last day to check if they’re on the list. Considering the SEC has introduced many new polling booths this time, every voter must ensure they’re on the list and also locate their booths at least a week before March 27.”
OTHER ISSUES
However, Prithvi’s main concern is about voters not just voting but also making an informed choice. “Only 3%- 4% of the registered voters do it,’’ he says, adding: “Registration in urban areas is not more than 50% and the total voter turn-out is generally between 47%-50% from among registered voters. On an average, only 22% of total voters participate. About 70% are influenced by factors like money, party loyalty, etc. It’s the remaining 30% about 3%-4% of the total who vote right.’’
Not many voters are aware about the role of the BBMP elections. According to urban experts, in Bangalore, voters are more aware and active about Lok Sabha and state elections. Not many appreciate or acknowledge the role played by the local government in their day-to-day lives, they say.
MANY FIRST TIMERS
The upcoming BBMP polls may also see many regular voters voting for the first time to elect their corporator. Prithvi, 40, of SmartVote, is an example. A regular voter for the past 22 years, he’ll be voting in the BBMP elections for the first time. “It took me so many years to know its importance,’’ he says. Interestingly, it’s the first time for the majority of 6,500 voters registered with SmartVote over the past six months.
POSITIVE SIDE
The biggest change could be the participation of youth — both as volunteers and as voters. They form nearly one-third of the total 6 million voters. Almost 90% have tremendous potential and belief in the process, say local surveys. What keeps them away from the polling booths is the cumbersome procedure.
“There may be no sea change in this perception but we’ll definitely see more youths participating in the BBMP polls this time, at least as volunteers,’’ observes Jasmine who noticed this trend since January 2010. His Jaagte Raho campaign has students from 15 colleges across the city signing up as volunteers. Alongside, nearly 50% of the 2,000-plus volunteers who signed up as Area Voter Mitras (AVMs) are below 35 years.

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