Impossible to change data of votes polled: EC | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Impossible to change data of votes polled: EC

By, New Delhi
May 26, 2024 04:42 AM IST

Election Commission of India releases absolute number of votes cast in first five phases of general elections, addressing concerns over data transparency.

The number of votes polled cannot be altered, the Election Commission of India said on Saturday as it released constituency-wise details of the absolute number of votes cast in the first five phases of the ongoing general elections, just over a month after the first rounds were held.

Election Commission of India (File Photo)
Election Commission of India (File Photo)

The commission contended that the process of collecting and storing polled votes is rigorous, transparent, and participative and that its officials have been disseminating voter turnout data in the best possible manner, considering statutory requirements.

The statement, and the disclosures, come following questions being raised by some parties and a petition in the Supreme Court over what they said was lack of prompt data regarding the total number of eligible voters in each constituency and voter turnout figures and proportions.

The numbers released on Saturday cast do not include the votes cast through postal ballots.

Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar, alluding to the controversies, said the commission will eventually reveal how people were misled by a series of petitions against the poll body in an attempt to sow doubt.

The panel on Friday got a relief from the top court, which told the petitioners that it will not ask the elections watchdog to take any specific actions per se while elections are underway. “The Commission has therefore decided to expand the format of turnout data to include the absolute number of voters in every parliamentary constituency,” the ECI said in a press release, noting that the absolute number could already be calculated using the percentage turnout and total electors, which are publicly available.

To be sure, the ECI released the absolute number of eligible voters for the first two phases only at the end of phase three polling. On the day of polling during the five rounds held prior to Saturday, the poll panel issued press notes containing estimated turnout from the ECI’s Voter Turnout App, which the commission said was “only tentative or provisional”, “non-statutory” and “through a secondary source” in a May 22 reply to an application by Association for Democratic Reforms and Common Cause.

In its submission to the apex court, the ECI said that the “curiosity of the public, stakeholders and Press” about voter turnout trends and results has always been expected because of which it had created the Voter Turnout App as “a measure of voluntary and non-statutory disclosure”.

Poll disclosures
Poll disclosures

Constituency-wise turnout percentages were released several days after each phase, while electors’ data was released inconsistently - 18 days after phase one but two days before phase six.

The ECI said candidates’ authorised agents will have Form 17C, the account of votes recorded, for each polling station and can compare it to round-wise results. Some candidates, like Dr Lubna Sarwath from a small regional party Vidhyarthula Rajakiya Party, who contested from Hyderabad on May 13, do not have the resources to hire polling agents to monitor polling booths and thus do not have access to Form 17C Part I.

Kumar told ANI News that there is an attempt to create doubt and the ECI will eventually expose “what is the play here.” He said people are misled into questioning voter lists and rules.

“Do not say it [Supreme Court’s remarks] was in favour. They [the Supreme Court] said what was the truth. There is an attempt to create an atmosphere of doubt. One day, we will definitely tell everybody about it that what is the play here, what is being done, why these doubts are birthed; we will do an exposé about it one day. We will tell everyone how people are misled this way, how because of this we end up thinking that this affects our voting. Doubts are created in people’s minds where they question if the rules, the voting lists are correct or not, if they have increased the number of voters. The Supreme Court responded to it all yesterday; we will also definitely give it one day,” Kumar told news agency ANI on Saturday after casting his vote.

“Big victory for peoples’ Right to Information! ECI releases voter turnout figures in absolute numbers. Important step by ECI, though this could have been done sooner. The demand to disclose Form 17C must continue as that is the only statutory authenticated record of voter turnout,” Anjali Bhardwaj, a transparency activist and a member of the governing board of Common Cause, tweeted on Saturday.

On Friday, the Supreme Court declined to issue directives to the ECI regarding disclosing authenticated turnout records within 48 hours, emphasising a “hands-off approach” during the ongoing elections. The ECI argued there was no legal mandate to make Form 17C Part I public and uploading scanned copies could lead to morphing and mistrust.

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