70% of Punjab’s young voters missing? EC far from target set as per census | punjab | Hindustan Times
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70% of Punjab’s young voters missing? EC far from target set as per census

The election commission (EC) has fallen way short of its target of enrolling 9.75 lakh first-timer voters for the ensuing assembly polls in Punjab due in early 2017. Despite efforts by the EC, the enrolment of new voters is stuck at 3.75 lakh.

punjab Updated: Nov 24, 2016 21:41 IST
Gurpreet Singh Nibber
election commission

The election commission (EC) has fallen way short of its target of enrolling 9.75 lakh first-timer voters for the ensuing assembly polls in Punjab due in early 2017. Despite efforts by the EC, the enrolment of new voters is stuck at 3.75 lakh.

The EC procured the data from the census department. Despite an aggressive campaign during September and October the number has not increased as expected. The EC started with 1 lakh voters in the age group but it could only add 2.5 lakh more.

There are a total of 1.96 crore voters against the figures of 1.92 crore in the last assembly polls of 2012. In the 18-29 age group, the total number of votes currently is 53.5 lakh, which is more than 25% of the entire electorate.

Even though the EC has given the job to locate first-time voters to an army of 700 students as youth ambassadors with their teachers as nodal officers, even in the state-run secondary schools and colleges the number is not growing. Electoral registration officers (EROs), sub-divisional magistrates (SDM), in each constituency are given the duty to search villages and count dropouts too.

“We fail to understand where they (first-time voters) have gone. We are much below our expected number. I get A report from the field officers that voters are not available, but the EC is insisting on locating them,” chief electoral officer (CEO), Punjab, VK Singh told HT.

Youth is seen as a game-changer by all parties in the 2017 polls. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has made special promises for youth, and the Congress and Akalis are also planning to come up with bigger promises to woo the youth.

A second round to find first-time voters will start by the end of this month. “I am expecting a lakh or two more,” said VK Singh. He said he had asked the deputy commissioner to lead the efforts. “I can’t believe that so many youth have disappeared have gone abroad, or that the census figures are incorrect,” said VK Singh. The process of vote-making would continue till a day before the polling day.

The EC’s target is 85% turnout this time, against last time’s 79%. “We are running different programmes – majorly the ‘systematic voters’ education and electoral participation’ (SVEEP) — to motivate voters,” said an EC officer.