Meet city’s top election officers

Meet city’s top election officers

Returning officers of all three constituencies in Bengaluru---South, North and Central---tell Metrolife how they are preparing for the big day. They are now focused on getting the lists right, and encouraging people to vote.

Beauty queens at a Sakhimodel poll booth at Cubbon Park (As told to Nina C George) on Tuesday.

‘Sakhi booths show women in action’

Lokesh M

Lokesh M, Returning Officer, Bengaluru Central, 21 lakh voters, 2,082 polling booths, 8 Assembly segments

What are you doing at the moment?

We ensure our polling staff are trained in handling the EVMs and are fully aware of the procedures. We are also busy ensuring all applications are processed and names appear on the list. We have also mapped people with disability and will ensure they can vote.

How are you reaching out to voters?

This year, we have Sakhi booths managed entirely by women. This is to send out the message that elections are conducted not just by men. Our staff are stationed at Metro stations and malls with demo machines to help people understand how EVMs work. These M3 machines are newer versions of the EVMs used at Bengaluru Central. ‘We’re meeting people at malls and markets as a part of SVEEP.’

‘We’re meeting people at malls and markets’

B M Vijay Shankar, Returning officer, Bangalore North 28,46,495 voters, 8 Assembly segments

B M Vijay Shankar

Challenges you face?

In a city like Bengaluru, the voter turnout is around 50 per cent. So, through Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation program, better known as SVEEP, we are trying to educate people on why it is important to vote. With so many holidays, we are indeed anxious about the voter turnout.

How did you reach out to people?

The BBMP commissioner and I have been meeting morning walkers, and have put up stalls at malls and Metro stations. We have also held meetings on IT campuses across the city.

Vulnerable areas

Election officials are visiting locations where people are likely to be intimidated. A ‘vulnerable location’ is one where people may be blocked from voting, or coerced to vote for a particular candidate. “We have identified 34 such locations. I have visited some areas where there is a likelihood of a poor voter turnout, and a majority see no threat,” says B M Vijay Shankar.

Nakul S S

‘Many skip voting for want of information’

Nakul S SReturning Officer, Bangalore South, 2131 polling stations, 8 Assembly constituencies

Big challenges?

Handling the logistics of Bengaluru, with such a large number of voters. The second thing is to ensure people come forward and vote.

Do you sense any indifference among voters?

There’s some degree of indifference among urban voters. So we have started verification centres where people can check voter lists, identify polling stations, and understand how EVMs work.

What contributes to the indifference?

Most people skip voting because they lack the required information. Sometimes, they don’t know where to go and what to do. We want to reach out and help them understand the process. We have Chunavana centres where people can give their EPIC number and get details about their polling stations. We have covered all Metro stations and are now moving into market areas, such as the Jayanagar shopping complex. The response at the Metro stations has been overwhelming.

How do you deal with problems related to EPIC (voter ID) cards?

Most people think they can vote if they have an EPIC . It is not so. You can vote only if your name is on the electoral list. We see this confusion among people in the lower income groups.

How do you deal with problems related to dead voters and missing names?

A death is sometimes not reported and in urban areas, people move out because of work and marriage. This is not reported to us. There is something called the Absentee Shifted Dead Voter (ASDV) list given to all presiding officers at the polling stations. They verify if a document matches the person who has come to vote.

What problems do you foresee this time?

Ensuring the upkeep and maintenance of the EVMs and their transportation is the biggest challenge. We are training our staff to handle these machines, which are foolproof. We are also trying to ensure our staff have toilets and drinking water. We want to make sure women staff don’t face any difficulty.

What emergency care is provided at polling stations?

BBMP nursing staff and doctors are adequately deployed.

Deadline over

The last date for voter registrations was March 16. Those who apply to be on the list now can vote only in the next elections.

EVMs tamper-proof

Election officials say electronic voting machines are stand-alone and cannot be accessed or manipulated by any remote device. “We tell voters they can vote with 100 per cent confidence,” a top official says.