Even as contestants were making efforts to push through last minute voter registrations for the graduates constituency election, there was confusion last week.
One, the last date for registrations was not categorically clear. There was reports that citizens could register during the week of May 14th, and contradicting reports that Sunday May 13th was the last day. Second, BBMP officials were declining to register voters.
"We opened on holidays Saturday and Sunday, May 12 and 13th, for enrollment. We closed registration on 13th, as per the clarification we got from Election Commission of India", says Shambhu Dayal Meena, Regional Commissioner of the state’s Revenue Department for Bengaluru at Shantinagar.
The Bengaluru Graduates’ constituency has its own voter rolls, different from the state assembly/parliamentary and municipal rolls. Only those registered in this particular roll can vote for a candidate. As of April, there were around 90,000 registered voters according to the Election Commission data.
Meena says seven-eight days are needed for background verification of each voter and his office is supposed to give the full voter list to the candidates on May 23rd. "So it’s not possible to stretch registration till May 23rd", he adds.
The website of Chief Electoral Officer, Karnataka says that all applications which are submitted ten clear days before the last date for making nominations for an election, as far as possible, would be considered for enrolment. The ten day period is to allow for verifications.
With the Regional Commissioner’s office being open for the weekend, campaigners for the Lok Satta candidate Ashwin Mahesh were working long hours on Saturday and Sunday. "There were 3 officers in the RC office who were accepting applications. We facilitated registration for some 3000 people on these two days, we were working overnight to process the applications", says Anand Yadwad, coordinator for Mahesh’s campaign.
Some BBMP AROs did not accept applications on the weekend. This was because May 12th was a second saturday, a holiday for government offices, and May 13th was a Sunday. "Citizens were sent back saying that both days were holidays and that the last date for enrollment was over. When we called some AROs, they were not aware of the election itself; they had not processed any applications so far", says Anand Yadwad, campaign coordinator for Lok Satta candidate Ashwin Mahesh.
Independently, the High Court has also been hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Mahesh on substantial difficulties with voter registration. Citizen Matters had reported this on 13th April.
Mahesh has argued that practical implementation of the voter registration scheme for the graduates constituency election in Karnataka has never been done and that the procedures being currently used by the election commission to fill up the rolls are in effect unconstitutional. He asked the court to direct the Election Commission to simplify the registration process to promote enrollment.
This case is coming up for hearing on May 22nd, one day before the last date for filing of nominations. ⊕