Elections 101: Why members of same household may have to vote in different booths

If you don't find the names of your family members in the voters’ list of your booth, do not assume that they aren't in the electoral rolls. They could just belong to some other 'part' and if you are wondering what that means, here's the answer.

Gospel of Matthew 12:25, KJV:25 And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto him, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.

The polling booth where you cast your vote, corresponds to a specific geographic area called a ‘part’. Each parliamentary and assembly constituency is divided into several parts, and the structure of a part is the same for both.

A part should be formed in a way that the polling booth is within a walkable distance of two kilometres for all voters. For example, a booth in the Gir Forests has only one voter.

As per guidelines of the Election Commission of India (ECI), the number of voters in a part should not exceed 1400 in urban areas, and 1200 in rural areas. Before 2014, this limit was 1200 and 1000 respectively.

Hence, within any city, the area covered by a part should have less than two kilometre radius, and a maximum of 1400 voters. If there are more than 1400 voters in a part, an auxiliary booth should be set up for the voters in excess.

Excess voters means low voting percent

When a part has more than about 1400 voters, voter turnout percent tends to be lower. This is because each EVM has the capacity to register only 2000 votes. So, if a booth has more than 2000 voters, some are technically disenfranchised.

If your part has more than 1400 voters, please raise the issue with the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of your state, and demand auxiliary booths in your part. The number of voters in your part will be mentioned in the first and last pages of the electoral rolls, such as in this example.

Electoral rolls for all parts in your city would be available in your state’s CEO website. (ECI sites may be occasionally down in the election season, so if the sites don’t open immediately, try again.)

One household, multiple booths

Occasionally, the number of parts in constituencies are increased, and voters distributed. This exercise, called delimitation, would reduce the number of booths that have more than 1400 voters.

However, during delimitation as well as new registration, Electoral Registration Officers (EROs) have not respected geographic boundaries while assigning parts to voters. EROs have to enrol voters according to the guidelines in the ERO Handbook, issued by ECI. But in practice, the data entry clerks working on contract basis are often the ones who assign parts to voters, and EROs approve these entries indiscriminately.

Hence, in several cases, members of the same family, living in one house, are assigned to different parts. For example, my nephew and his wife are in different parts. My daughter’s father-in-law and mother-in-law are in different parts. Sometimes, immediate neighbours are in different parts.

If you do not find the names of your family members in the voters’ list of your part, do not assume that they are not in the electoral rolls. They could be in some other part, and may have to visit a different booth to cast their votes. You can search their names in the NVSP website or your state’s CEO website, to identify their part/booth.

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