“I have an election ID card, but I can’t find my name on the voting list.”
“I have received two voting slips, one from my address before marriage, and the present one. Which do I use to vote?”
“My husband has got his voting slip, and my name is on the electoral list. Why isn’t my name on your list?”
These were just a few of the questions I heard as I awaited my turn today, for exercising my right to vote. By these standards, mine was an easy task, in spite of the fact that I had mislaid my election ID card!
However, I had some other questions, which I have been raising for a while now, and which, no one seems to have an answer for. Which is why, having successfully cast my vote, and unsuccessfully questioned everyone I could think of, I am finally posting this.
To begin with, my name has been on the electoral list of my present address for the past 11 years, that is, since my marriage. However, my name has still not been removed from my previous residence, in spite of multiple attempts to do so. Thus, my name appears twice, on the electoral lists of this city.
My husband’s name was misspelled, so, a number of years back, we applied for a name correction. The correction was done, but not on the original one, so his name appears twice, on the same list!
My sister in law has been married for over 7 years now, and we have changed her address on all documents, and even applied for her name to be removed from the voters list, but her name still appears here, and we duly get her voting slip too.
My father in law passed away almost a year back, and we have applied for his name to be removed, but it has not yet been done.
We thus received 6 voting slips this year, while there are just three eligible voters in the family. Which leads to a voter turnout of 50 % in just our house. Add to this the fact that my mother in law is not in town, and the voter turnout drops to 33%. Now, let me add my duplicate name in my previous residence. That reduces the figure further.
This is the state in just one house in Mumbai. I have been hearing similar stories from friends and relatives, so this is evidently a widespread issue. With such a state of affairs, how exactly do we expect anything over 50% overall turnout?
The election commission has done a splendid job of digitising the records and making them available online. Unfortunately, the list is riddled with errors, and the names are so creatively misspelled, that it is not an easy matter to find our names. The list sorts out names by family, but that needs a common surname, which we south Indians don’t have. It also sorts the names by address, but the same addresses are spelled in so many different ways, that it doesn’t work either. How then do we find our names and ensure that we perform our duty?
It isnt enough to simply digitise the records, but we need to ensure that the records are correct. Plus, we also need people who actually know how to work with computers and understand what an online list means. Unfortunately, most of the election staff seem to be clueless. When I pointed out the duplicate names, one of them offered to make me a card for that too. “If having one card is good, having two cards is better, no?” was his logic.
Meanwhile, my son is mighty amused by the situation, and wants to know why he can’t vote, considering we have extra voting slips in the house! Of course, there is that little matter of age, but in this situation, I am beginning to wonder if there are any underage voters registered too!