Last December, Smart Vote and other organisations had campaigned for extending the deadline for voter registration. This seems to have paid off, as some 7.5 lakh voters enrolled themselves in the list, in December-January alone. Smart Vote had got people registered directly, and also created awareness among the public. The registration drive continues.
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Around one lakh applications are still pending, as they are yet to be verified and updated; BBMP had promised to complete this by March 10th. Our sample checks show that this is not complete yet. We will discuss this in a meeting with BBMP on March 13th.
The CEO and BBMP have now agreed to work with us by taking our feedback and fixing errors. This came about after Smart Vote and BPAC (Bangalore Political Action Committee) met the CEO Anil Kumar Jha and BBMP Commissioner H Siddaiah.
Earlier, the office of the CEO (Chief Electoral Officer), Karnataka, had tried to block access to the electoral rolls online. On January 28th, they introduced CAPTCHA to stop downloads of voter lists. We still managed to download the list and report errors. But on January 30th, they converted the files to images format, making it difficult to extract data. This violated the directives of the ECI (Election Commission of India), which mandates that voter lists should be in public domain, in text form.
Supported by BPAC, we took up the issue with ECI. In February, I met the three Election Commissioners in Delhi, and later in Bangalore. After discussions, the restrictions were removed on March 2nd.
There are still thousands of easily identifiable errors in the list, but the software vendor CMC, which maintains the ERMS (Electoral Roll Management System), still denies this. They maintain ERMS for the CEOs of 10 states, all of which might be of poor quality. On analysing the electoral rolls of Delhi, which has over 1.22 crore voters, also managed by CMC, I found many errors.
However, Delhi’s rolls seemed to be in a better shape than that of Karnataka. For example, our voter list has 527 voters aged less than 18 years, while Delhi’s has none. We have 96 voters aged over 120 years, while Delhi has only seven. Karnataka list also has people with absurd age – 4818 years in one case – which Delhi list does not have.⊕