Awareness pushes voter turnout in low-voting areas | india | Hindustan Times
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Awareness pushes voter turnout in low-voting areas

india Updated: Nov 29, 2013 19:34 IST
Chetan Chauhan
Chetan Chauhan
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

A-file-phote-of-people-waiting-to-cast-their-votes-at-a-polling-booth-in-Dantewada-during-the-Chhattisgarh-assembly-elections-PTI-photo

A high turnout of 70% in Maoist stronghold of Bastar in Chhattisgarh and a surge in the number of voters in traditionally low-turnout areas show the Election Commission's efforts to persuade more and more people to exercise franchise have worked.

The EC for the first time appointed awareness observers in the five-poll bound states. It also identified the polling stations- about 10% of the total-where the lowest voter turn-out was registered in 2008 elections so that it could focus on the reluctant voters there.

"The observers were told to put in an extra effort to make people come out to vote in these areas," a senior election commission official said.

Besides deploying election observers, the EC also reviewed electoral rolls, carried out door-to-door enrolment by its booth-level officer and awareness campaigns to raise the voting percentage, its officials claimed.

Voting data provided by the commission for the three states, where the polling has taken place, shows the strategy had some positive impact.

Just one-fourth of the listed voters came out to vote in 2008 in Maoist-hit Bijapur. This election, the voter turnout was about 50%, despite a boycott call given by Maoists.

The higher voter turn-out was also reported from other Maoist affected areas, with Chitrakot witnessing about 13 percentage point increase and Bastar constituency crossing 83%.

Not only did voter turnout increase in areas with strong Maoist presence, it also went up in areas with little or no presence of Leftwing extremists. The EC had appointed eight awareness observers for the state, which reached there soon after the elections were announced.

Having over a dozen awareness observers in Madhya Pradesh for the areas that reported low polling in 2008 seems to have created an impact. Indore, which recorded just 60% polling in 2008, reported over 70% voting this time around.

Similarly, a higher voter turnout was reported from rural areas in Guna, Gwalior, Dewas and Jabua districts, among others. But urban pockets such as Bhopal did not match the rural enthusiasm.

Even in the north-eastern state of Mizoram, which has witnessed high turn-outs in the past, the appointment of two awareness observers impacted the elections positively. In 2013, half of the eight districts in the state recorded more than 80% polling. Five years ago, just one district touched that mark.

Was the increase in voter turnout due to awareness only? Many in the EC doubt. They say the turnout appears to be high in low-turnout areas because duplications and fake names were removed from their electoral rolls.

"Awareness has an impact, but it cannot result in 10 to 15 percentage point increase in voting," an official said.

The measures, however, would mean increase in polling in Rajasthan, which is going to polls this Sunday and Delhi next week, the EC officials say.

In 2008, Rajasthan recorded 66.25% voting, while Delhi witnessed a dismal turnout of 57.61%.