Higher turnout among women voters, says data
Elections in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Goa, Manipur and Uttarakhand that came to a close on Monday
The latest round of assembly elections that ended with the final phase of voting in Uttar Pradesh on Monday saw a voter turnout of 67.8%, barely 1 percentage point lower than the 68.78% in the same states in 2017, according to the Election Commission data accessed by Hindustan Times on Monday.
The data also showed that the proportion of women voters who turned out to vote (70.42%) was higher than that of the men (68.78%). Elections in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Goa, Manipur and Uttarakhand came to a close on Monday. The number does not include data from UP’s seventh phase of polling on Monday.
An EC official said that even though the percentage turnout of voters was lower, the number of people who have cast the vote is far greater. “Nearly 11 million voters have been added to the rolls for this round of elections, in absolute numbers, more people have cast the vote than last time,” the official said.
The overall low percentage turnout could be the result of the Covid-19, said political analyst Narayana A of Azim Premji University. “What needs to be seen is that polling percentage has nothing to do with the result,” he said. “Reasons will have to be studied why the percentage has dropped but actual numbers have reason.”
The Omicron variant of the coronavirus disease had gripped the nation in the run-up to the polls, prompting the Election Commission to impose a slew of Covid-appropriate measures. Early in January, the EC had restricted roadshows, padayatra, vehicle rallies and processions.
When the elections were announced on January 8, the seven-day average of daily cases was 90,524 and increasing. When the first phase of elections took place on February 10, this weekly average was 83,352, and on the declining side of the peak of the third wave, which came on January 25 at 312,180 cases. On March 6, a day before the last day of polling, the seven-day average was 6,210.
As for women doing better than men, it is a continuation of the trend seen in 2017, when 71.01% of women and 66.70% of men voted.
Narayana said that the reasons may vary. “One reason is the migration pattern of male members, second is that political consciousness is increasing among women,” he said. “Moreover, political parties are increasingly trying to win over women voters. Women voters are also participating in electoral decision making independently.”
The EC this year also undertook several initiatives to encourage women voters. From setting up women-only polling stations in every district to conducting special enrolment drives to increase the number of female electors, the EC, headed by Sushil Chandra, stressed on the need to make the polls inclusive on all fronts.
Chandra, during an international poll observers’ event on Monday, highlighted the achievement of women voters for participating in the process. “He commended various initiatives taken by Election Commission of India for facilitating senior citizens, PwD and women voters, he appreciated the innovative and localised solutions implemented by field officers to overcome barriers faced by various categories of voters,” it said.
In Uttar Pradesh, the proportion of eligible women that voted crossed that of men in two of the six phases. Data for the seventh phase was still being processed. In the sixth phase, the difference was nearly 11 percentage points, the largest in any state, with 62.62% women and 51.03% men voting. The data for the six phases shows that 60.15% of men voted as compared to 62.27% of women.
In Punjab, where a single-phase poll was held, 71.99% of eligible male voters cast their ballot as compared to 71.91% of women. The average voting percentage was 71.95%. Overall turnout dipped from 77.4% in 2017 when 76% of male voters and 78% of women voted.
In Uttarakhand again, the proportion of eligible female voters (67.2%) exceeded that of men (62.6%), but these were again lower than the 2017 numbers of 69% and 62% respectively. The overall voting percentage was 65.37% compared to 2017’s 65.56%.
In Goa, the proportion of women voters again exceeded that of men, 80.96% over 78.19%. In 2017, the numbers were 83.98% and 78.48%. Overall turnout in the state was 79.61% compared to 2017’s 81.27%.
Manipur, meanwhile, saw the highest voter turnout among the five states with nearly 89% of voters casting their ballot. Here too, the proportion of women electors exceeded that of male ones, 90% over 88% men. It was the only state where these numbers were higher than those seen in 2017, 88% and 84%. The overall voting percentage was nearly 89% compared to 2017’s over 86%.