The State Election Commission (SEC) has written to the BBMP asking the Assistant Revenue Officers (ARO) to verify the voter lists of their respective wards. This comes a day after a Bangalore-based citizens group on voter awareness, Smart Vote, approached the SEC about errors in 19 polling booths. Smart Vote found that the electoral lists of three polling booths have been duplicated, in what seems to be a human error and not that of the database itself. These have been fixed by the SEC. But there are more such duplications and the SEC says they are looking into it.
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For example, the voters list of polling booth number 21 under Bommanahalli (Ward 175) has been duplicated for polling booths 22, 23 and 24.
However, the SEC has found that the errors are only with the English rolls and not the Kannada ones. Also, the supplementary rolls of each of these voter lists in English have been found to be updated correctly.
Secretary of the SEC, D K Ravindranath says that errors are being checked and have sought a report from the AROs of the BBMP. "It’ll take reasonable time, three to four days. If we don’t get a report then we’ll give them a deadline", he says.
Now, all this started about ten to 15 days ago when Prithvi Reddy, co-founder, Smart Vote, was going through the voters list of his ward Banaswadi (Ward 27). This is when Reddy found his wife Pratima’s name repeated three times under different polling booths. Pratima Arora Reddy’s name is present in the voter list of four polling booths, with her name misspelt and incorrect gender in two places.
Reddy eventually found out that the voters list of polling booths 11, 12 and 13 were carbon copies of one another. The voter list of polling booth 10 was copied three times. "This meant that 3000 names had been duplicated", says Prithvi Reddy, who informed the State Election Commission (SEC) about the errors.
On receiving no response from the SEC, Smart Vote continued looking at the voter rolls when they realised that the duplication problem existed for other polling booths as well. On February 15th, about 15 days after having initially contacted the SEC, members of Smart Vote P G Bhat and Prithvi Reddy, Lok Satta members and aspiring city councillors Dr Meenakshi Bharath and N S Ramakanth and Banaswadi resident D S Rajshekar, also a council election aspirant, met with officials of the SEC about this problem. Reddy says that the SEC initially claimed that the errors were not from their end and could be with the office of the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Karnataka.
"We showed them the problem. But they still said that it was not their mistake. So we went to the CEO’s office," says Reddy. By the time this team reached the CEO’s office, they received a phone call from the SEC stating that the error was fixed. This happened in less than 30 minutes.
Reddy says that this may have arisen due to operational or human errors which can be easily corrected.They have now told the SEC that there are more such errors and are willing to assist the authorities. Reddy feels that this should not be used as an excuse in not holding the BBMP council elections as the problem can be fixed easily. Meenakshi says they will follow this up with the SEC in a few days to see if they have rectified all the lists.
Ravindranath of the SEC says he welcomes this effort in bringing such errors to their notice. But says that nothing can be done if the data is incorrect in the parliamentary rolls itself. Citizen Matters also verified the voter list available at BBMP elections website with that on the CEO’s website. The CEO’s website has the correct voter list for the polling booths (albeit updated), confirming that the error has occurred while uploading the information on the BBMP website.
For example, take the case of polling booth number 17 under Ward 161. Under the BBMP site, this voter list is incorrect and instead has the voter list of polling booth 15. The correct voter list for this booth is available in the CEO’s website (albeit updated) under polling booth 141, Ward 161.
(The polling booth numbers are different for city council elections and parliamentary/assembly elections because two separate rolls are maintained. Therefore, polling booth numbers 17 and 141 in Ward 161 will have the same voter list. Note: Parliamentary and Assembly elections are conducted by the Election Commission of India, and municipal and panchayat or local body elections are conducted by the SEC.)
The Smart Vote team, however, has also spotted other types of errors in the electoral list. "More than one person has the same EPIC (Electoral Photo Identity Card) number which is actually supposed to be a unique number. In some cases, a person’s name has been repeated in the same polling booth", he says. Reddy also gives another example of duplication wherein a family of four, Sangeetha, Sandeep, Ravindranath and Rekha, living in Aramane Nagar (Ward 35) have their names repeated four times, under different polling booths. (See picture). Reddy says that their team is looking into this and is checking for such errors under different polling booths.
It is because of such errors that Reddy says that maintaining a single database for the entire state would be better than having multiple databases. He also says that Smart Vote suggests reducing the number of vendors who work on the database so as to minimise such errors. Instead, they suggest using software to simplify the process itself. ⊕