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India heading for highest ever voter turnout

india Updated: Apr 17, 2014 12:44 IST
Chetan Chauhan
Chetan Chauhan
Hindustan Times
Live Coverage of Lok Sabha elections on Hindustan Times

India's voters have come out in emphatic numbers as never seen before in the first four phases of this summer's general elections. If the trend continues, the 2014 polls may have the highest voter turnout ever even though the hot summer is considered a big stumbling block.

As many as 68.29% of voters in 111 Lok Sabha seats that have gone to the polls so far exercised their franchise. This is about eight percentage points higher than the polling percentage in these constituencies in 2009. The overall polling percentage in 2009 was 58.19% when 714 million people were eligible to vote.

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Historically, the highest polling ever recorded was 61.97% in 1998.

A lot had changed in the Indian electoral system since 1998. Electronic voting machines were introduced, the distance between homes and the polling booths were reduced and poll officers now remind voters of their Constitutional right a day before polling.

“The polling time is now 11 hours and we also provided basic minimum facilities for voters at the booths,” said Akshay Rout, who heads the voter awareness division in the Election Commission.

Measures like getting top Bollywood icons such as Aamir Khan to be the EC’s brand ambassador, ridding electoral rolls of fake voters, and increasing awareness in villages and small towns have helped bring about a big jump in people’s participation in the world's biggest electoral exercise. “The jump in voting numbers would not have been possible without the work of lakhs of polling officers at the ground level for months,” Rout added.

Of the 13 states and union territories where elections have been held, polling increased, except in Sikkim and Nagaland. The fall in polling in Sikkim has been attributed to heavy rains on polling day, April 12 and in Sikkim the drop was not significant.