Extended polling hours fetch high turnout

The Election Commission’s decision to extend the timing of voting by an hour in the morning as well as in the evening may have contributed to the high voter turnout in the capital.

Unlike in previous Lok Sabha elections, casting of votes began at 7 am instead of 8 am, and it continued till 6 pm instead of 5 pm.

On an average, around 30 people visited polling booths between 7 am and 8 am and around 20 people voted in the evening. Over 11,500 polling stations were set up for 1.27 crore voters, including over 3.37 lakh first-timers.

Voters welcomed the extended hours and people were seen gathering outside polling booths as early as 6.45 am.

“I had been planning for the day for the past two weeks and wanted to be one of the first to cast the vote,” said Dheera Likhi, who went to vote at south Delhi’s Sultanpur village at around 7.30 am.

Her neighbour Mohammad Afsal said it was a good option for people who prefer to get out to vote when it is not too hot.

“Its also a suitable timing for people who don’t have a day off. I have to leave for office at 8.30 pm, and don’t want to miss the right of casting my vote,” he added.

The elderly also seemed to like the extended hours. “It didn’t take me much time to cast my vote as the polling booth wasn’t crowded at 7 am. The process was smooth as all the arrangements were in place,” said 72-year-old Smita Sharma after casting vote at around 7.45 am in Mayur Vihar Phase 1.

Morning visitors

Polling agents at the centre in Mayur Vihar Phase 1 said about 40 votes were polled between 7 am and 8 am and 45 voters exercised their franchise from 5 pm to 6 pm. “I was out of town, so the extended hour is a blessing in disguise. I was able to come to the city and cast vote,” said 23-year-old Ajay after voting at NP Nursery School on central Delhi’s RK Ashram Marg.

A couple chose to vote at the last hour in Mandir Marg area. “We chose to come after 5 pm as there won’t be rush,” said Rakesh Gupta after voting at St Thomas School on Mandir Marg.

BJP candidate from Chandni Chowk, Harsh Vardhan, was also among the early voters and reached a polling booth at east Delhi along with his mother at around 7.45 am. Vardhan is up against Congress incumbent Kapil Sibal and AAP’s journalist-turned-politician Ashutosh.

The timing of voting was extended after Delhi Chief Electoral Officer Vijay Dev made a request to the Election Commission.

During the state Assembly elections held in December 2013, 1.7 lakh people were in queue after the deadline for voting ended at 5 pm. As a result, the Election Commission had decided to keep voting open with polling drawing to a close in Okhla constituency around 9.30 pm.

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