Several residents showed up to vote on Thursday only to find that their names were not on the electoral roll.

Long-time Bengaluru voters names deleted People protest EC denies responsibility
news Lok Sabha 2019 Thursday, April 18, 2019 - 18:56

Bengaluru is not only infamous for its terrible traffic jams but also for its abysmal voter turnout. But can Bengaluru's low voting percentages be blamed only on voter apathy? On Thursday, many Bengalureans found that their names had been deleted from the electoral rolls. Many took to social media to vent their frustration, others spoke to the media and a handful staged protests. But the question each one of them had was, "Where did my vote go?"

At around 10 am on Thursday, around 30 residents of the city’s Nagarbhavi area, who had gone to the polling booth opposite the BDA Complex found that their names were deleted. Many of them had voted in May 2018 Assembly elections.

Speaking to TNM, Manjunath, a resident of Nagarbhavi said that his name was not on the electoral roll. “I had voted in the 2018 Assembly elections and now my name was not on the electoral roll. My wife is also a voter and her name is also missing,” Manjunath said.

The angry voters staged a protest outside the polling station and demanded that the officials allow them to vote.

After waiting for two hours, Manjunath was informed that he could not vote as he had not filed Form 6 requesting the EC to add his name into the roll. “They finally blamed me. I have been voting for so long in this constituency. Why would a common man assume his name will be deleted? This is not my mistake,” he said.

This, however, was not the only incident reported in the city. Several residents of Ejipura, Malleshwaram, Shivajinagar, Jayanagar and Banashankari faced similar situations.

Residents unaware of absentee, shifted and dead list

Nupur, a resident of Bengaluru’s Ramagondanahalli, went to the government school in the area to cast her vote along with her husband. Nupur had shifted from her home in Whitefield to  Ramagondanahalli only three months ago. She and her husband had applied for a change of address on the Election Commission website so they could voter in Ramagondanahalli. To Nupur’s surprise, her name was not on the electoral roll but her husband’s name had appeared.

“When we checked on the EC website it kept saying that our request was still under process. We decided to give it a shot and went to the booth. My husband’s name was there and mine was not,” Nupur said.

She then went back to her old constituency of Whitefield and when she checked the electoral roll, her name was on it. However, it was struck down with a ‘deleted’ stamp.

“The electoral rolls were not updated. But the polling officials said that I could go and vote in the Whitefield polling booth itself and I finally voted,” Nupur added.

Several residents of Jayanagar, who had come to vote near National College also faced similar issues where their names had not been updated on the voter rolls. However, many voters were unaware that they could have gone back and voted in their old constituencies.

According to Additional Chief Electoral Officer KN Ramesh, the absentee, shifted and dead list is not made public but is privy only to election officials. He says that a lot of voters don't know the difference between “ordinary resident” and “permanent resident”, which leads to their names disappearing from rolls.

“A person may have registered his/her permanent residence in Bengaluru but may live in other parts of the country. Their names will be deleted during the revision process as they will have to vote from the area they are residing in. The process takes time and that’s why we publish electoral rolls way ahead of elections so errors can be rectified,” he added.

Why were the voter names deleted?

Despite the discontent and anger from eligible voters who could not find their names in the voter list, the Election Commission has shifted the blame onto the voters.

“The draft rolls were first published in October 2018. Since then, we have been telling voters to check their names. Final rolls were published on January 15, even then we told people, ‘please check your name’. Then we had given time till March 16. We have solved a lot of complaints that have come to our knowledge. Our officials go from house to house. During these visits, they may find that the person is not living at the said address. Deletions are not made suo motu, there is always some documentation,” Ramesh told TNM.

'Faulty electoral rolls'

While the Election Commission claims that it has done its duty in informing voters, PG Bhat, a retired Naval officer, who has been studying this elaborately, is not convinced. He says the rolls are filled with bogus entries and that erroneous deletions continue to plague Bengaluru. 

Speaking to TNM earlier, he had said that the current voter rolls are inflated. Bhat argues that since 60% of Bengaluru’s population is eligible to vote and if everyone was registered to vote, the number of voters should come to 78 lakh approximately. But the final rolls have more than 90 lakh voters, and it does not add up.

He also says, “There is the issue of photo voter slips. It is supposed to be given by the Election Commission to each voter but it is done by political parties. So if a voter does not have the slip, the booth officers often ask voters to get it from the political parties who may not have the updated voter rolls. And then sometimes they are told that they do not have a vote, simply because they do not have the slip.”

This is not the first major election where legitimate voters have felt that they have lost out.

TNM had earlier reported that in February 2018, residents’ collective Whitefield Rising moved the Karnataka High Court after many of its members were rejected voter ID cards, allegedly without any explanation.

 

 

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