Gaffes mar polling process: Election Commission failed in ensuring a foolproof process

92-year-old woman voter refuses to place her postal ballot in bag, demands box
Bhavani Amma, who belongs to Kollamparambil, Kollad in Kottayam district, refused to deposit her ballot paper in the bag brought to her house by polling officials saying that it was not safe and demanded a ballot box.

Thiruvananthapuram: The Election Commission (EC) has not ensured a foolproof polling process, and a few of its failures, ranging from the preparation of electoral rolls to handling of postal votes, have affected the credibility of the poll process. The following are the major mistakes:

1. The EC relaxed the norm of the house visits to inspect the credentials of all those who had applied for the inclusion of their names in the voters’ list published on January 20. With the booth-level officers discarding house visits, all applicants found their names in the list.

2. The EC accepted the Opposition Leader’s claim that more than four lakh votes have been duplicated in the electoral roll. The Commission later told the High Court that only 38,586 votes have been duplicated. The panel’s stand of slashing the number of fake voters will lead to bogus voting. Since Ramesh Chennithala had made public the list of duplicate votes, efforts to prevent bogus voting might be made by political parties. This is likely to create tension.

3. The last date for applying for the inclusion of names in the electoral rolls was March 9. The Chief Electoral Officer, however, had earlier mentioned March 12 as the last date at a news conference. The officer confirmed that March 9 was the last date only after journalists sought a clarification on March 8. Though he apologized for the gaffe, a large number of voters might have missed the opportunity to include their names and exercise their franchise.

4. The final voters’ list was published on March 20. It was earlier announced that those applied for inclusion till March 9 would be included in the supplementary electoral roll that would be released on March 20. Following allegations of irregularities in the voters’ list, the supplementary list was not published separately. Instead, it was merged with the final one. Finding duplicated names became difficult with the merger. Additionally, a record seven lakh voters were included in the new list. The Commission made no attempts to avoid duplication despite the record addition to the list.

5. The EC faltered in the handling of postal votes also. Officials visited the residences to collect postal votes of those eligible. The votes were returned to the respective offices, where they sealed and secured. This process was not foolproof. The EC did not strictly direct to involve political parties in the entire process. The process was not uniform in all districts, with each adopting a convenient one. A decision on keeping postal votes secure was made only after the matter had reached the court. By then, the majority of postal votes had been cast. Additionally, the Commission waited for reports from Collectors instead of initiating immediate action against the erring officials.

6. Slips distributed to voters were not error free. Slips distributed in Thiruvambady mentioned April 7 as the day of polling, instead of April 6.

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