Compulsory vote not practical, says poll panel

Compulsory vote not practical, says poll panel

Awareness campaign more pragmatic: Election Commission

“Our feeling is in a country like India, with its huge population, complexities and diversities, there will be practical difficulties in implementing any law to make voting mandatory,” Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi said.

Reacting to the Gujarat Local Authorities Law (Amendment) Bill 2009—passed in the State Assembly on Saturday making voting in local body polls compulsory—Quraishi said such legislation might be implemented in a state but might not be “advisable” on a national scale.

“Suppose 30 per cent or say about 300 million people do not turn up to cast their vote, how do we punish them? Are we going to open 300 million files?” he asked.
“In a democracy, education and persuasion may pay better dividends than taking the legislation route,” he said.

However, the commission had discussed the proposal to implement such a law on a national scale whenever the issue of low voter turnout came up.
“But taking into consideration the practical difficulties in implementing such a law, we have decided to vigorously campaign to educate the voters,” he said, adding that the “Pappu do not vote” and “Jago Re” campaigns were both successful in impressing young voters.

Sustained efforts
To make sustained efforts to impress upon people to exercise their franchise, the EC has set up an information education and communication division. It will take campaigns to schools and colleges by roping in youth clubs, NGOs and the Nehru Yuva Sangathan.
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi had said laws providing for compulsory voting had been adopted in 32 countries. However, K J Rao, former advisor to the EC, had pointed out it could be enforced only in 19 countries.
He had also argued in favour of increasing voter awareness as a means of strengthening democracy.

However, Quraishi said the Gujarat experience would provide the EC with a rare opportunity to assess the pros and cons of such a law, and that the commission “would like to learn lessons from this experience.”

Election Commission strategy
* Gujarat Local Authorities Law Bill not advisable
* Pappu do not vote” and “Jago Re” successful in impressing young voters
* New information division to impress upon people to exercise franchise
* Campaigns in schools, colleges by roping in NGOs and Nehru Yuva Sangathan
* Gujarat experience to provide EC with a rare opportunity to assess such a law

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