EC pulls out all stops to encourage voting

Poll season

EC pulls out all stops to encourage voting

Learning from its follies the last time around, the Delhi Election Commission is ma­­­­king a string of corrections to encourage even more voting at the Lok Sabha polls slated for April 10. Polling officials are going all out to woo young voters, the differently-abled and also the ‘urban apathetic voters of Delhi.’ And their me­thods, this time, are innovative and inspiring.

Taking note of the import­ance of young voters, the off­ice has tied up with a string of college managements to app­oint a ‘campus ambassador.’ “It could be a student or a teacher who can goad the youngsters to cast their precious vote. We have requested colleges to hold debates, essay competitions, rallies, human chains etc on the subject of voting to make the students more aware. This is part of our Systematic Voter Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) programme which we are pursuing even more aggressively now,” says an official.

Eighteen and 19-year-olds form over 3.5 lakh of Delhi’s eligible-to-vote population, that is, about three per cent of the total voter base. During the Delhi Assembly Election last year, they were instrume­n­tal in pushing up the voter turnout of Delhi from 57.78 per cent (in 2008) to an impressive 65.86 per cent.

But the State Election Commission is not stopping at just that. “A string of big and small events are lined up in various parts of the city to whip up an atmosphere of enthusiasm just ahead of the polls,” an official informed us. The first of them – a music concert – took place in a mall in East Delhi last weekend. Cricketer Ishant Sharma was the star attraction accompanied by election mascot Votu. “We want to target the mall-going crowd whi­ch is notorious for treating poll day as a holiday. We hope it leaves an impact,” the official added.

Delhiites can expect road shows, nukkad-natak, even mo­­­tivational talks on the imp­ortance of voting in the run-up to D-Day.

This time, the Commission has a special focus on making voting easier for the differently-abled. It has joined hands with several NGOs and Government departments to introduce “facilities” for the locomotor disabled, speech and hearing-impaired and visuall­y­-challenged. “We have started training our 50,000 plus poll booth staff to aid such persons. Ramps are being bu­ilt and wheelchairs and sign­ages being arranged. We want to make the process as inclusive as possible,” Neeraj Bha­rati, Additional Chief Electo­ral Officer, Delhi, elaborated.

Significantly, polling hours have also been extended in view of the long queues and resultant pandemonium caused last time. “Poll booths will open an hour in advance, that is 7 am instead of 8, and people can cast their vote till 6 pm instead of 5. Voters can check for their names in the electoral rolls on the Commission’s website or even via SMS,” added the Additional CEO.

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