Chennai voters irked as many names found deleted from electoral rolls

In a single polling booth in Chennai, at least 20 people found themselves unable to vote as their names were either deleted from the electoral rolls or did not feature on the list at all.
Irked voters outside booth number 99 in Chennai's Saidapet.
Irked voters outside booth number 99 in Chennai's Saidapet.Nidharshana Raju
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Several voters in south Chennai were in for a rude shock when they went to their polling stations on Friday, April 19, to cast their votes in the Lok Sabha elections 2024, only to discover that their names were deleted from the electoral rolls. In a single polling booth, at least 20 people found themselves unable to vote as their names were either deleted from the electoral rolls or did not feature on the list at all.

While the highest number of people who could not vote were from the Chennai south constituency, some from Chennai central and Chennai north constituencies were also in a similar position. Some disgruntled voters who spoke to TNM said they had been voting from their constituency for many years now, and could not understand why their names were suddenly deleted. 

Deepak Nathan, a professor at Loyola College, told TNM that while the names of his mother and sister were present in the electoral roll, his name was missing from the voter list in Medavakkam of Chennai south constituency. “I feel depressed and excluded. This is nothing but classic discrimination,” said Deepak, who is also a person with disability.

He also took to social media and wrote, “My name not found in booth! Unfortunately @ECISVEEP commission doesn't do its job properly! I have been voting in this booth for last 15 years, how come name could be deleted just like that?! @TNelectionsCEO wants us to vote but arbitrarily remove disable people name from list” (sic).

Nagaraja, an autorickshaw driver from Thousand Lights, told TNM that all his family members including his wife, mother, and siblings were able to vote, but not him. Thousand Lights comes under the Chennai Central constituency for the Lok Sabha elections.  “I have been voting in the Thousand Lights constituency for many years but today, they [polling officers] told me that my name is not on the list. This happened during the Assembly elections as well. At that time, I contacted people from political parties but it did not lead anywhere. I was still hopeful, which was why I went to the polling station with all my government IDs today (April 19). But the officers there said I could not vote since my name was not on the list. I don’t know what to do or where to go now. I am disappointed that I was the only person in my family who could not vote,” he said.

Preetha from Saidapet, who is a first time voter, said her name was missing from the list, along with at least 10 to 15 people in her booth - booth no 99. Saidapet falls under the south Chennai constituency. “When we asked the officials present, they said zonal officers will come. But they haven’t come as of now,” she told TNM around 2pm. 

“Officials are also saying there is no assurance that I can cast my vote at all this time,” Preetha added. 

Selvam has been voting for five decades and said his name too was deleted now. He has shuttled between booths in Saidapet but to no avail.

Usha, another voter from Saidapet, told TNM that she and her son voted from the same booth in the 2021 Assembly election but her name alone was missing this time. “We don’t know what exactly happened. Something is wrong and we want to know what's going on. Are bogus votes being cast under our names?” she asked.

Another voter, Anitha Thirumurthy from T Nagar said that she and her husband received booth slips with ‘deleted’ stamps on them. When her husband contacted election officials in T Nagar, a metro water official named Chandrashekar visited their house on April 18 and had a list that featured both their names. 

“Chandrashekar assured us that we could go to the booth and vote, so did the officer Vennila, who spoke to us first. But in the booth officials’ books this morning, our names still had the deleted stamp. The Returning Officer (RO) said we can’t vote and there is no possibility to challenge the vote either,” Anitha said.

Similar issues of names having been deleted from the lists were flagged at polling booths in North Chennai’s Perambur, Vyasarpadi, and Thiru Vi Ka Nagar.

South Chennai’s RO, MP Amith, told TNM that he had also been getting calls from some voters and the exact reason behind these deletions was not known yet. “One probable reason could be that when people change their addresses and move for work to another city for more than six months, their names could have been deleted. But we do get request forms from such people whose names have been deleted. Suo-motu deletions are not generally encouraged unless someone has died or when there has been a large-scale evacuation from one location to another,” he said.

Amith, however, acknowledged that there have been incidents this time where a person who has lived in that area for many years was unable to vote. “In some cases, most family members have been able to vote while one person in the family got excluded. These are peculiar cases and have to be investigated,” he said.

When asked about how some voters were assured of their names not having been deleted by election officers, he added, “There is no chance for deletions or additions to have taken place at the last minute because the last day to delete names was March 16 and to add was March 27. This was the instruction from the CEO’s office. We will examine if written complaints are filed.”

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