New voter lists: Lakhs still missing!

The Chief Electoral Officer has published a new set of voters' lists for Bangalore on 28th January, 2013, but lakhs of legitimate voters are yet to find a place in the rolls

The Electoral Rolls of 27 constituencies of Bangalore have serious errors and omissions. When the authorities did not react to repeated feedbacks and request to correct anomalies, a PIL was filed in the High Court of Karnataka. The Chief Justice agreed with the issues raised in the petition and directed the CEO to correct various data errors and also to restore illegitimately deleted voters.

After reported efforts at cleansing the lists, the CEO published a new set of voters’ lists on 28th January, 2013. However, soon afterwards, download of the voter-lists was disabled. Prajalytics, a software company, had downloaded the files for 27 Bangalore constituencies manually and extracted voter records. On learning this, the CEO converted all the voter lists to image files, disabling data extraction from them.

However, based on the voter lists of 27 constituencies of Bangalore city downloaded on 28th Jan, the data quoted in succeeding paragraphs has been compiled, which shows the glaring omissions that persist in these lists.

Voter Deletions

Between July and December 2012, the CEO had deleted about 13 lakh voters from the voter lists and had accepted that these deletions were done without due diligence. As per the court order on the PIL filed, he was to restore incorrect deletions without the citizens having to register again as voters.

Voter counts in the lists published most recently indicate that only some of the deleted voters are restored.

From a study of voter lists over a period of time, it can be inferred:

Deletions in Jul 2012  —  10,90,437
Deletions in Dec 2012  —  2,82,832
Restored in Dec 2012  —  1,87,103
Restored in Jan 2013  —  4,75,273
Total deletions  —  13,73,269
Total restorations  —  6,62,376

In Dec 2012 and Jan 2013, lakhs of citizens submitted Form-6 (for fresh registration) though their names had been illegally deleted from the voter lists. Therefore, though the CEO database may show them as newly registered voters, one can infer restoration as their names had been in the list at the same address prior to July 2012.

In a meeting held on 20 Jan 2013, the CEO had stated that

  1. 10,18,666 applications for registration (Form-6) were received during Dec 2012 to Jan 2013, of which 96.6% (9,84,030) were accepted.
  2. About 1,00,000 deleted records were restored without submission of Form 6.
  3. Of 30,868 deletion requests (Form-7), 29,382 were accepted.

From the above, count of voters should have increased by 10,84,030 over the previous list. However, total of summary tables in the new voter lists show 7,05,100 additions only. This leaves out 5,96,670 pending requests yet to be included!

Citizens who have applied for inclusion are further confused by the incoherent and inconsistent statements from ERO staff.

It is not just that voters are missing from these lists, but the entire process, in fact, seems to have scant regard for quality as may be concluded from the following:

Registration Process: The process is not citizen-friendly and is ineffective. The EC has directed CEOs to collaborate with various agencies (educational institutions, banks, co-op societies, RWAs, etc) to make registration more effective but CEO / BBMP do not seem to have taken any step in this direction.

Data Quality and Completeness: Voter records data quality is pathetic with absurd data and large number of blank fields. Data entry software should validate entered data and reject bad data.

Search becomes difficult. Many voters are unable to find their names, though included in the electoral roll. Then, either they do not vote or get another entry in the voter list, leading to duplicate voters.

While making an entry, the authorities do not check if the person’s name already exists in the list, resulting in a large number of duplicate entries.

By entering the same data in different ways at different places, an entity loses identity. This hinders analysis of the voter list.

CEO Website: The CEO website has been unstable and error prone. The site is not intuitive and not inviting. There is no convenient way to give feedback and track responses. Error messages are misleading. Help messages are inadequate. Even silly spelling and grammatical errors exist.

The online registration feature has frustrated many citizens and is not corrected, despite repeated complaints since July 2012.

Status tracking of registered voters is not effective.

Blocking Feedback

Vigilant citizens are now blocked from analysing and checking if there is a contempt of court by CEO. The CEO states that he would identify an agency to verify, but some of the agencies with whom the CEO has partnered have been providing very poor service; for example the Director General of SEARCH INDIA told (admitted?) that a survey report from his organisation had not been professionally prepared.

Suggestions

The CEO hoards data, hiding heinous errors and omissions. Electoral roll data should be transparent, and encourage vigilant citizens to give feedback. CEO should accept such feedback and offer of help.

Voter lists should be in text form as in other states – not image files. Allow downloading these with software program by removing CAPTCHA.

CEO should partner with professional organisations and demand highest quality of products and services.

It is imperative to correct the existing errors well before the next elections. Restore incorrectly deleted voters, include the citizens who have already registered. Delete duplicate and fake entries in the voter lists.

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