How big booths end up denying voting to citizens
Commander (Retd) PG Bhat 13 May 2014
Voter turnout percentage reduces significantly when booth size increases beyond 1,600 voters. Even the counts of people, who vote in these booths, do not increase much with the size of booth

In the previous article (Read: Turn voters out and complain about poor voter turnout ), I argued that when the number of voters in a polling booth is higher than 1,320, then not all the voters in the booth can cast votes in the allotted polling hours. The chief electoral officers (CEOs) deny voting rights of citizens by design when they increase the booth size beyond a limit. This argument was based on logic. With further analysis, we have evidence.
After the Assembly Elections 2013, CEO of Karnataka, published Form-20 giving details of votes polled in each booth of the state. He also published the count of voters in each booth in another document. From these documents, I extracted voter counts and votes polled in 41,441 booths. (CEO-KA has later removed these documents from his website. Document properties show the date of creation as 23 May 2013.)
We find a clear correlation between decline of voter turnout percentage and polling booth size whereas the number of people who vote does not increase beyond a count showing that the booths have reached their capacity.
The table below gives the booth sizes in different ranges, number of booths in that category and turnout in number and turnout % in them. Because a larger % of big booths are in Bangalore, I have given the counts for Bangalore in separate columns. 

The table above and bar graph below clearly show decline in voter turnout percentage, when the size of booth crosses 1,400 voters. When the size crosses 1,600 voters, the decline is even sharper. Whereas the turnout percentage in Bangalore is lower till the booth size is about 1,600 voters, for booths larger than that, the figures are close to those of Karnataka as a whole.

Whereas the voter turnout percentage reduces significantly when the booth size increases beyond 1,600 voters, the counts of people who vote in these booths do not increase much with the size of booth. No correlation of votes polled and booth-size beyond a size indicates that booth’s capacity and not voter apathy reduces voter turnout percentage. Bar graph below helps in visualising this reality too.

Other than some increase at the tail-end, maximum number of voters are found in booths whose sizes are between 1200 and 1400. When the size increases, voters may be de-motivated thinking of possible long queues. This is an assumption based on the data. Surveys with this hypotheses may give better insights.
When we talk of the need for electoral reforms and voter apathy, our priorities are wrong. The CEOs should first adhere to the rules and guidelines of Election Commission of India (ECI) and the Commission should ensure that they do so. Reforms before that would be like paint on a rusty surface, allowing the rust to eat the metal inside while exhibiting shine outside. 
(Commander (Retd) PG Bhatt is a retired naval officer, an educationist and a social worker.) 


8 years ago
Good work Mr.Bhat,

As the number of voters in a booth increases it puts the weak, not so healthy and older people at a disadvantage as they may not be in a physical condition to wait for long hours. Hence it automatically reduces voting percentage.

If election commission can make use of the data that you mined and uses logical approach, may be they will be able to find the optimal number of voters for a booth to increase the voting percentage.
PG Bhat
Replied to CHILUKURI K R L RAO comment 8 years ago
Thanks, Mr. Rao. Please let me know if anyone has ideas to explore using the published public data by ECI and various CEOs. If we mmet the authorities with hard data, we may succeed.
Replied to PG Bhat comment 8 years ago
You are welcome Mr.Bhat. Yours is a good idea and need to be communicated to the election commission. That is what we can do.

I believe there are good people in the system and if we can make such ideas reach those people then we might get a chance to better the system.

Here is a link that contains all the email ID of the people manning the election commission.

Request you to send your article to all these email IDs so that we can improve the odds of reaching those good people that matter in the system.

Wish Moneylife too pitches in.

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