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Compulsory voting difficult to enforce: poll panel chief

Thursday, May 13, 2010 07:08:50 PM, IANS

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Bangalore: Making voting compulsory would not be possible in elections even if a law is enacted due to various factors that inhibit the Indian parliamentary democracy, Chief Election Commissioner Navin Chawla said here Wednesday.

“It will not be possible to implement compulsory voting. There is no law yet. Even if there is one, it will be difficult to enforce due to various factors that are beyond the election machinery,” Chawla told reporters.

Admitting that ensuring higher voting percentage in assembly or parliamentary elections was a concern and a challenge, Chawla said the responsibility to convince every registered voter to exercise the right lay as much with the people as with political parties and the administration.

“We have to educate the people to participate in the democratic exercise. We have to persuade them to go and vote…In the 2009 general elections, the voting percentage nationwide was 58, which implies that 42 percent of the electorate did not vote,” Chawla noted.

Citing one of the factors that could have led people not to vote in the 2009 parliamentary polls, Chawla said it is difficult to ensure those engaged in the unorganised sector are given a paid holiday on polling day to go and vote.

“We have noticed this anomaly in the Maharashtra assembly elections last year. We need to evolve a mechanism to see those engaged in the unorganised sector are free from their occupation on the polling day to exercise their franchise,” Chawla said on the margins of a two-day conference of southern chief electoral officers and a symposium on best electoral practices.

Another factor that prevents a large number of people from voting is the absence of their names on the electoral lists despite having an electoral photo identity card.

“Though 85 percent of the people have been given the voter’s identity card, many of them do not verify whether their names are on the electoral rolls, which are revised every year. It is the duty of every citizen to register his or her name and address with the election authority to ensure his or her name is not missing in the final list of voters,” Chawla said.

Analysis of election data revealed that lower voting percentage and voters’ names missing from the electoral rolls were more an urban phenomenon than in rural areas.

“It is the indifference of urban voters towards elections and their failure to verify if their names are on the electoral list. People assume that their names are in the electoral rolls. We have to sensitise them not to make such an assumption but check the electoral rolls, which are revised every year. The onus is as much on the voter as on the administration and political parties,” Chawla reiterated.

The election commission has decided to cover the entire electorate with the voter’s identity card by next year.

Besides the poll panel chief, the two election commissioners S.Y. Qureshi and V.S. Sampath participated in the zonal conference, which was attended by chief electoral officers of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Union Territories of Puducherry, Andaman & Nicobar islands and the Lakshwadeep.





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