An uninformed choice

If you know nothing about the candidates of 'your constitu-ency', how valid is your vote?

I will always cherish the first time I voted, as a 19-year-old. It meant that I was now officially an adult.

I am never sure whether a person who does not vote loses the right to comment on the work of the representatives – perhaps because there are a dozen reasons why a person does not vote. Yet, I do remember being disappointed that I did not get to cast vote in the last parliament elections, in 2009, because I did not get leave to go to my native constituency, Mangalore.

The Panchayat elections are on in Karnataka; this weekend, it will be held in Mangaluru too. This has brought back memories of all kinds regarding the casting of votes. The first time I went to a polling booth, I made a virtual fool of myself, forgetting that it was a confidential ballot.

I do not recall the first time I pressed a button on an EVM, but in the 2014 parliament elections, I remember struggling to find my name in the voters’ list. That I voted not with my voter’s ID but only my number, supported by an identity card, reminded me of the umpteen examples of problems with voters’ IDs.

One of my favourite functioning districts, Kolar, voted a week back. The Panchayat elections in 2010 saw the deputy commissioner – the district election officer, that is – give the voters up to 21 options of identification documents they could get instead of ‘missing’ voters’ ids. Very typically probably, the district also saw a round of ruckus thanks to the voters failing to follow the instruction.

The Assembly elections of 2013 was the one occasion I did not regret missing a chance to exercise my franchise – my voter’s ID of Mangaluru had expired and I had not yet applied for one in Bengaluru. My only argument was that I was not qualified to vote in either of the constituencies. As a sub-editor, I had had to work on reports from Kolar and Chikkaballapur districts for a couple of years and, naturally, knew better about the who, what and how of these districts than other places. I think I hardly knew the names of all the contestants from either Mangaluru or Bengaluru.

The question has surely come in other voters’ minds – if you know nothing about the candidates of ‘your constituency’, how valid or acceptable would your vote be? Would you not be doing an injustice to your role as a voter if you used your power with ignorance?
So, my only desire during the Assembly elections could not be fulfilled, as per law – I wanted to cast my vote in the undivided Kolar district, in any of the constituencies there. Then, to a certain extent at least, I would not have been ‘an actor in the play of democracy’, going on stage merely to find myself able to utter only nonsense.

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