Missing voter names: Illegal deletions, modifications of voter list galore

If only the Election Commission shows some concern, stops blaming the citizens and start taking responsibilities, we can improve the system of voter records. Court cases and roadshows are no solutions

It is sad that the chief electoral officer of Karnataka (CEO-KA) has published a low voter turnout percentage and armchair political pundits are busy blaming voters for their apathy toward election. Please do not trust the numbers from CEO-KA because the calculation is based on a bloated voter list with fake and duplicate entries.

 

While taking charge as Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) on 11 June 2012, VS Sampath stated, “A clean electoral roll and hassle free registration are among our highest priorities. Every eligible person shall be on the roll and name of every ineligible person shall be removed. We will engage all outreach methods, voters’ education and technology to achieve these objectives.”

 

The CEC voiced importance of an efficient and high quality Electoral Roll Management System (ERMS). Unfortunately, this concern remained restricted to his speech alone. His actions (inactions), and those under him, speak differently.

 

Electoral Rolls of 13 states and union territories (UTs) are published in English, partly or fully. Others are published only in local languages. Due to my limited capability, I have analysed only the rolls published in English, which cover about 10% of Indian voters – a good sample. Most of my comments in this paper are about the state of electoral rolls of 28 constituencies of Bangalore.

 

Clean electoral rolls

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has defined the schema for electoral rolls. CEO-KA has shown least regards to the data standards. Little care is taken to validate entries by software or by verification process recommended by ECI. As a result, critical personal data in many voter records are wrong – leading to confusion and disenfranchisement. See some examples:

  • Polling booth officer did not permit Elsie S Velu (EPIC BCW6606073) to vote. Her sex was recorded as male. Her husband was shown as her father. My neighbour’s deceased father-in-law is shown as her husband.

  • Dr Balasubramaniam married Dr Bindu 20 years ago. Her age now is 18 on the rolls!

  • We had thousands of people aged 0. After repeated complaints, majority of them became 36 year old one fine day. There are hundreds of voters above 100 years of age.

  • It is very common to find errors in names, making it difficult to search at CEO website.

  • Data on EPIC do not match the records in electoral rolls.

  • Members of a house are distributed across different polling booths.
     

All such errors lead to confusion and lower voter participation.
 

Eligible people on the roll

In Karnataka, genuine voters are regularly deleted from the rolls without due diligence required as per ECI regulations.

  • CEOs delete lakhs of records without verifying and then expecting the voters to object. In 2012, CEO Karnataka deleted 13.5 lakh records out of 65 lakh in Bangalore. Reason: these records did not have voters’ photographs because the authorities lost them. In 2013, CEO Maharashtra deleted 50 lakh voters across the state as reported in media. He has defended the action without giving any reason or logic.

  • When booths are rationalised (increasing or reducing the number of booths in a constituency and shuffling the voters) lakhs of voters are lost. Last year, Delhi rolls (70 constituencies) lost 14 lakh voters and Andhra Pradesh (AP) rolls (294 constituencies) lost 20 lakh. Both the CEOs have not responded to mails asking if the deletions were verified. Sample survey in Hyderabad has shown that about 25% of these deletions were incorrect. Other would have been correct by chance.

  • In Karnataka, due to faulty software and neglect of verification process, thousands of voters are deleted each time a new version of rolls is published – which is about four times a year.
     

No authority is held accountable for this injustice to citizens.
 

Ineligible people removed

  • Electoral rolls have names of those who have shifted their houses or are dead. In Bengaluru, at HMT Layout, RT Nagar, matadara mitra, an organisation recognised by CEO-KA, submitted 170 names for deletion out of about 600 voters list. No actions. Before the assembly elections in May 2013, once again matadara mitra submitted forms for additional 110 deletions and three additions. No action. The people who reported say that they are frustrated and have stopped interacting with CEO-KA.

  • Like in the above example, majority of the voter lists of Bangalore bloat with invalid records.

  • Voters are found with addresses of non-existing houses and in commercial properties. Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), which maintains the voter lists for Bangalore, also has access to the details of properties because they collect property tax. They can easily validate many addresses.
     

Duplicate records

  • In the list of 78 lakh voters in Bangalore, we find more than 5.5 lakh sets of duplicate records, suggesting verification of 17.5 lakh records, which form these sets. Sample checks in a ward has proved that photographs of suspected duplicates match.

  • Delhi has 10.7 sets of duplicate record, requiring verification of 35.4 lakh voters.

  • Refreshingly, Kolkata rolls are far superior in all aspects. That city also would have the difficulties of moving population like Delhi and Bangalore have.

 

A year ago, I shared with the ECI a software that identifies suspected duplicates and can then compare the photographs of the suspected records. This would significantly reduce field work to de-duplicate the rolls. However, a common citizen does not have access to photographs of voters. Though ECI asked CEO-KA and CEO-DL to share with me database dump with photographs of one district each for a pilot project, they both have not shared the data. They have not responded to repeated requests for the data.

 

Ironically, CEO Karnataka told a news reporter of Citizen Matters that people with duplicate voter records could be imprisoned for two years, but he has not taken any action on them! Surely you are joking, Mr. CEO-KA.
 

BS Yeddyurappa, former chief minister of Karnataka, had suggested making it compulsory to vote. There are many who repeat that idea even today. When a person has several voter records, whom will you punish? When the addresses in the record are non-existent, how will you reach the ‘guilty’ non-voter? Many of the voters in the list are dead. How will you get them back from graves?
 

Hassle free registration

Registration has not been smooth in Karnataka. Many applications do not close with inclusion of names in electoral rolls. The Electoral Registration Officers (EROs) do not communicate the application status with the applicant, though required as per ECI directive. Hardly any guideline of ECI is followed in registration or in other operations of EROs.

 

Online registration has been ineffective in Karnataka. Many people who register online do not get included in the rolls. ERO staff discourages registering online. As a contrast, in Kerala people can register only online. It is effective.

 

Each booth is expected have a Booth Level Officer (BLO), who should facilitate smooth registration and upkeep of the electoral roll. CEO-KA has recently published a list of BLOs at his website. When we call the phone numbers given in the list, we realise that the data in the document are fake. Many people in the list respond telling that they are not BLOs and do not know anything about the list.

 

Technology

ERMS software used in Karnataka is of very poor quality on several counts and violates basic software engineering guidelines and commonsense. Software requirements are simple and so is the model.

 

People in ERO staff do not use available computing facilities in their offices to manage the rolls. They work inefficiently and ineffectively with heaps of paper and complain about overwork.
 

CEOs do not take feedback and offers of help to improve the quality of the system and the processes. They do not respond to mails.

 

Hope

We can hope to improve the system only if the concerned authorities show concern, stop blaming the citizens and start taking responsibilities. They should be held accountable. Court cases and road shows are no solutions.

 

(Commander (Retd) PG Bhat is a retired naval officer, an educationist and a social worker.)

  • Like this story? Get our top stories by email.

    User 

    COMMENTS

    Suresh Pataskar

    2 years ago

    The Chief Electoral Officer, Telangana State has admitted that about 22 lakhs names were deleted from the Voters lists due to mistake of Election Commission. He has offered his apology to voters and promised revision ahead of 2019 Parliamentary Elections.
    Is an admission of mistake and apology enough? Is it not an act of criminal negligence? 22 lakhs voters are 8.4% of total votes of the State. Should the entire State Assembly elections be cancelled & re Elections conducted after revision Electoral rolls?
    Why action should not be taken against those who are responsible for deletion of names?. Whether notices as per RP Act were issued to all voters whose names have been deleted to give them opportunity?
    The same Commission has done lot of efforts & suceeded to increase percentage of voters by due publicity involving all interested stake holders for 100 & voting, stressing importance of single vote etc etc.

    Pramod

    7 years ago

    I hundred percent agree. My name was missing while wife name was there in the list. We have been residing at the same place and have been voting in the previous election. Should we not challenge that EC puts the blame back on the voters for this (that we should check name before the election). Who is accountable for the integrity of the voter list? By same logic a bank manager can delete name of a bonafide account holder without due dilligence and put the blame on the account holder!
    My view:
    - name once on the voter list should remain there
    - if a voter moves out of the area or country then, s/he shd inform
    - If EC thru door to door verification finds the voter missing then such names should be published in the ward office and EC website and citizen should be asked to bring a proof to claim back their name on the voter list.
    Voting is a fundamental right of the citizen and once enrolled EC can not remove the name and disallow a citizen to vote without follow a due process.

    SANKARAN MANIKUTTY

    7 years ago

    I can vouchsafe for the inefficiency in Karnataka. We shifted from Ahmedabad and hence registration in KA required the deletion of the names from Gujarat. My wife and I registered on line and while I got my card (without any errors, I must add), my wife did not. Her status was shown as "filed verification completed" at least two months back, and nothing happened. Then there was a drive to register for the voter's list with the address proof etc. and my wife registered in that also. Nothing happened, and she could not vote. The system of follow up is absolutely clumsy and does no credit for the IT capital of India.

    Manikutty, Ex Prof. IIMA

    PG Bhat

    7 years ago

    <http://ibnlive.in.com/news/ec-admits-to-...>
    EC admits to lapses, apologises for names missing from voters lists.

    Sebastian Morris

    7 years ago

    EVMs are not only without a trail, but also have the problem that parties and candidates who know the EVMs identity and by matching it to booths can know the booth wise voting with some effort. Not a good thing...

    Sebastian Morris

    7 years ago

    The EC has become an organisation beyond critique. So large is its reputation that even positive critique would be unwelcome. Thus its processes are so poor for the issuance of voter ID cards that:
    1. it is possible for one person to have more than 1 id
    2. The photos are of pathetic quality
    3. The cards can be easily duplicated
    4. There is almost no card without a mistake, and corrections are nearly impossible. Thus I was "STREE" with a big beard.
    5. Others can go and cancel me from the list
    6. Since they read out the names in the local language and then transliterate back into english the error is inevitable.
    7. The agency which does the job is on such low margins that errors are certain. Most of the staff is probably barely literate
    8.The database on the website is open to all becoming a security threat given the information therein
    9. I am sure the EC will not bother - given its "GREAT REPUTATION"

    Thanks
    Sebastian Morris (Prof. IIMA)

    REPLY

    PG Bhat

    In Reply to Sebastian Morris 7 years ago

    Election Commission at Delhi has issued some excellent guidelines to the Chief Electoral Officers. quality of Electoral Rolls is acceptably good in some states. West Bengal is one of them. Karnataka and Delhi have the worst among what I have studied. Maharashtra rolls are not available in English though CEO-MH is required to publish 59 constituencies in English as per ECI directive. If these can be got in English, we can use software to analyse the quality, quantity and patterns of errors.

    The blame is more on specific CEOs of states than the Election Commission.

    Suiketu Shah

    7 years ago

    This is an indication that fraud via EVM is not working this time hence new trick to remove lakhs of voters voting fro NaMo from the list.I admire Dr Swamy more than ever for exposing EVM frauds.

    REPLY

    Jayant Shetty

    In Reply to Suiketu Shah 7 years ago

    Dr. Swamy for couple of years has been making allegations about the manipulations in the EVM. He has been proved wrong all the time. He is good at making allegations against various persons/agencies but cannot substantiate it!

    Suiketu Shah

    In Reply to Jayant Shetty 7 years ago

    Good evening Mr Shetty.I trust what Dr Swamy says 100% in everything.He is the greatest genuius politician we have ever had.He is 100% right on EVM as well.We agree to disagree.Have a great weekend.

    Hemant

    In Reply to Jayant Shetty 7 years ago

    Better you check his record,before saying anything.

    P b Sarma

    7 years ago

    The highly corrupt enrol lying staff are colluding with local politicians and rowdy elements and making the mistakes deliberately to eliminate genuine middle and upper middle class voters.This is another very big scam if investigated.

    REPLY

    Abhijit Gosavi

    In Reply to P b Sarma 7 years ago

    Apparently, many of those who had voted in the past (and their addresses hadn't changed) made the mistake of not going to check whether their names had actually appeared in the voter list. They assumed their names must exist and were caught off guard. Those whose names didn't appear in the last election (e.g., my parents) had taken extra steps to ensure that their names did show up. It's not surprising that certain last names and localities went missing in Maha. Sad.

    Vinita Deshmukh

    7 years ago

    It is shocking that it is the same tale in Karnataka, besides Maharashtra. While we wait for the Election Commission to take action (which it may or may not) let us all raise alarm by filing police complaints and also filing complaint of deletion at the respective Election Office. We must not let them rest in peace. Pl give your piece of mind by doing both the above.

    Nagesh Kini

    7 years ago

    The best Quick Fix solution to the massive delisting problem is to get the youngsters presently involved in creating voter awareness to conduct a rigorous on-site verification visiting each building along with the election office employee and member of the neighbourhood network to ensure that rectifications are carried out immediately thereafter and not left to a subsequent bureaucratic 'official re-verification' process that never takes place.
    With the listings now readily available locally, post yesterday's elections, this shouldn't take long.
    Surely the EC doesn't want to wait for the Supreme Courts 'judicial overreach' to crack the whip!

    Sudhir Mody

    7 years ago

    One significant improvement would be to provide the electoral rolls to the general public in an electronic searchable format (say an XLS file or similar format)

    The current PDF format and search algorithms of the election commission sites are prehistoric. They dont allow for any meaningful search & analysis

    If data is made available to the general public, it will be possible for us to put the analytics of deletions, duplicates out there for all to view, comment and effect corrections.

    Unfortunately, the CEO has been unwilling to share the electoral data in any other format.

    Indur Chhugani

    7 years ago

    We had received our voter card January 2014.

    Today we went to vote - I could vote, my son could vote but NOT my wife - Her name and photo was in the list - BUT there was a stamp 'CANCELLED' on it.

    No one could enlighten who had put that, when or Why ?.

    Arguing about it did not help.

    DEEPAK KHEMANI

    7 years ago

    2 members of my family could not vote as their names had mysteriously disappeared from the voter list despite having latest updated election cards in MUMBAI today

    SuchindranathAiyerS

    7 years ago

    Gerrymandering is not the only reason why India is ruled by corrupt criminals, but:

    PG Bhat

    7 years ago

    <http://www.deccanherald.com/content/4015...>

    “He [Dr. Quraishi, ex-CEC] said the electoral roll in Bangalore was always in a mess despite the City being the IT Capital of India. The CEC had to come down to the City to put the roll in order and to give a dressing-down to several people for the mess. He reminded the voters of Bangalore that the poor voter turnout always favours criminals, given the fact that 30 per cent of the politicians fielded this time are criminals.”

    We are listening!

    Solve the equation and enter in the Captcha field.
      Loading...
    Close

    To continue


    Please
    Sign Up or Sign In
    with

    Email
    Close

    To continue


    Please
    Sign Up or Sign In
    with

    Email

    BUY NOW

    online financial advisory
    Pathbreakers
    Pathbreakers 1 & Pathbreakers 2 contain deep insights, unknown facts and captivating events in the life of 51 top achievers, in their own words.
    online financia advisory
    The Scam
    28 Year Of The Scam: The Perennial Bestseller, reads like a Thriller!
    Moneylife Online Magazine
    Fiercely independent and pro-consumer information on personal finance
    financial magazines online
    Stockletters in 4 Flavours
    Outstanding research that beats mutual funds year after year
    financial magazines in india
    MAS: Complete Online Financial Advisory
    (Includes Moneylife Online Magazine)