Voter roll in Bangalore: Claims and reality

These days, news reports in Bengaluru regularly talk of some good work done by or statements from the Chief Electoral Officer of Karnataka. He is getting excellent coverage for right reasons.

  • He has been strict and vigilant about malpractices in light of electoral code of conduct. He is acting boldly, befitting his position. I admire this.
  • In Bangalore alone 8.08 lakh new voters were enrolled in about 45 days, since February 1. This is laudable.
  • On National Voters Day (25 Jan 2014) President of India honoured him for achieving the highest Elector to Population ratio.

When we bask in these achievements and glory of our own CEO-KA, why am I upset?

My observations are based on the electoral rolls of 28 Assembly Constituencies of Bangalore.

With increase in voter population, the errors in the rolls also have increased. Leaving out absurdities like male voters with husbands, illegal ages, unreadable records at CEO-KA website and the PDF files, the following important issues need action on priority.

Rampant duplicate entries

More than 5.5 lakh sets of records have voters with multiple entries. Several sets have more than 200 records with the same voter name and relative name and age ±2. Total records thus suspected to be duplicated and requiring verification are about 17.5 lakh. This is 22.3% of the total 78.4 lakh voters in the rolls. Hence, the real count of voters would be much lower than what is claimed.

The high E/P ratio for which the CEO is honoured is based on incorrect data. Also, when the officials shout about “Voter Apathy” for poor voter-turnout, are they not covering up their own apathy? If the voter turn-out is higher, we should worry that large number of people have impersonated duplicated voters.

In some cases, two voters would have same name, age, and relative name – but can it happen in 22.3% records? If the records are genuinely of two different voters can be easily verified by comparing voter photographs using software. One year ago I shared with ECI the software that compares photographs of voters and generates reports. CEO-KA refused to look at it, telling that he already has such software. Current state of electoral rolls do not show any sign of de-duplication efforts by him, though required as per ECI directive.

Common Citizens do not have access to voter photographs.

When I physically compared photographs of sample suspected duplicates in ward office 162, majority of the suspects became true duplicates. I showed error samples to ERO of Basavanagudi constituency and later to BBMP Commissioner.

When I offered to help all the EROs under BBMP in identifying and correcting various errors in rolls including duplicates, Additional Commissioner told that taking external help would be illegal! Deputy Election Commissioner Alok Shukla has told CEO-KA several times to take my help, though.

Illegal deletions

The system illegally deletes voters – deliberately, accidentally, and due to errors in software. Despite a directive from Karnataka High Court, illegal deletion of voters continues.

By not honouring the process guidelines, modification of records sometimes leads to proxy deletions of voters.

E.g. see the following record before and after modification:

 

Part#

Serial

House

EPIC#

Voter

Sex

Age

Relative

Before

KA1500082

781

182

XTE4675617

Revathi R

F

18

Ekambaram R

After

KA1500082

781

# 15- 3rd Mn

XTE3550555

Narasamma

F

27

Narasimha Murthy

At CEO-KA website, searching for Revathi’s record with her EPIC# or name, we get a message “record not found.” We have lost one voter and have created a duplicate entry for the other. The voter would know only when she reaches the booth on the day of elections that her name is not in the rolls.

In February 2013, CEO-Karnataka accepted that about 18,000 records were thus affected during January and February 2013. However he has not corrected these errors. Nor has he improved the software to block such errors or to adhere to the processes (as per ECI directives) that would detect the errors. Not only the previous illegal deletions are not restored, but with every new version we have new errors of the class adding up.

In the rolls published on 30 March 2014 at CEO-KA website, at least 1,200 voters are thus deleted. The count may be more. I have been conservative.

Because we can detect these errors using software, the system can easily block such errors with right (and expected) features of data entry and verification software.

Corrections to the rolls won’t be possible before the Lok Sabha elections. But, it should be taken up soon after. I do not complain and distance from the issues, but want to work with the system to improve its quality. So far, CEOs of several states have ignored my suggestions and offer of help.

I need help and support in pursuing this case.

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About PG Bhat 0 Articles
P G Bhat is a retired naval officer and software professional, an educationist and a social worker.

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