Polling began at 7 am on Tuesday, April 6, in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, and before the morning weather transitioned into the fiery afternoon, quite a number of voters made their careful plan of turning up early to vote. The voter turnout at 11 am, however, stood at 26.29% in Tamil Nadu, and 33.13% as of 11.30 am in Kerala. Despite the Assembly elections being held amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many residents, especially senior citizens wearing masks, lined up to exercise their right to vote.
The Election Commission has taken precautionary measures by making available PPE kits, face masks and hand sanitisers outside the polling stations. Voters who have tested positive for COVID-19 have been allotted slots between 6 to 7 pm on Tuesday in both states so that others are not exposed to the infection. TNM spoke to a few elderly voters on their experience and how it felt to be voting amid a pandemic.
S Venkatachalapathy, a 75-year-old retired Electricity Board employee, had come to the SIET polling booth in Chennai along with his wife to cast his vote. Just moments ago, DMK leader MK Stalin had come to cast his vote there along with his wife Durga Stalin, son Udhayanidhi Stalin and daughter-in-law Kiruthiga Stalin.
For Venkatachalapathy, the entire process got over within minutes. “I decided to come in the morning so it is easier. They have taken good precautions here at the booth and I was able to cast my vote easily,” Venkatachalapathy said.
An elderly woman being assisted as she goes to the polling booth
Eighty-four-year-old Subhatra cast her vote at the Chepauk-Thiruvallikeni Assembly constituency despite the increasing COVID-19 cases in the area. She said, "I don't know who will emerge winner, but many parties are making promises and failing to follow them. But I'm voting for the past 60 years so I'll continue to vote."
In the state of Kerala, senior citizens Prasanna, Jabala and Shekar reached the polling station at Jagathy School, Thiruvananthapuram, to cast their vote. They told TNM that COVID-19 or not, they have a constitutional duty to cast their vote in the election and choose the right leaders to rule the state.
Achuthan Nair, 85, and VG Leela, 81, were at the Poojappura school in Thiruvananthapuram to vote. “Though the government has allowed voting via postal ballot, I wanted to come and cast my vote. The polling booth is near my home. All COVID-19 protocols have been duly observed and my hands are still wet from the sanitiser (laughs). My vote is for good governance and development,” Achuthan told TNM.
85-year-old voter Achuthan Nair with 81-year-old wife VG Leela
Seventy-year-old VP Kamalakshmy told TNM that she's been voting for many years at the same polling station - Cotton Hill School Thiruvananthapuram - and came out of habit. She was given sanitiser before she went to poll and the voting went fine, she said.