Maximising youth voting ­­­ By: Parul Purwar

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Figure 5 : Turnout in General elections Courtesy Lokniti

Gender also matters. While education and exposure to media has helped to a limited extent, in making women more opinionated there is still a huge divide. Far less woman as compared to the young men take part in demonstrations or protests. Though a number of women have political aspirations it is less compared to the men. Pondicherry had the highest number of women electo­rs. 51.84. This is about 4% higher than the national average.

­Factors which influence youth are different from that of the older generation. First time voters are influenced by the political discussions n their household. There is positive correlation between the youngster voting if his/ her family has been politically aware and regularly participates in voting. The political awareness of youth is dependent on their household, education and the exposure towards media to a very large extent. Till now in many rural societies the household has a decision maker, generally the oldest male in the family. The dependents in the family obey the rules set by the head. This trend occurs during voting also. As yet of independent political thinking amongst youth has not developed.

Other factors that influence youth politically are the socio economic background that they are from. Those who are well off and satisfied with their lot, as in the case of many urban youth do not see a necessity to vote. On the other hand rural population in India wants a change to occur in their lifestyle and they see voting as a mean to assert their right.

Figure 6: Turnout in rural and urban constituencies, Courtesy Lokniti

Many reasons contribute to voter apathy amongst youth. The main reason is the marginal utility of their vote. They believe that the marginal cost of voting is less than the marginal utility of their vote. The voter is contributing his time and effort to vote and he expects a return for his investments.

Many citizens feel that their vote will not make a difference. According to a survey conducted by CSDS, 9.5 % [5] of those who did not vote said they did not have a good choice. The political system has two major national level parties, and each state has a few powerful parties. Power passes from one party to another but no visible change in governance occurs. To a voter, choosing between two candidates is difficult, as in his eyes there is no difference.

To a common man in India, politicians are corrupt, lazy, inefficient and unreachable. Since the politicians once elected are not accountable to the public, people feel that voting does not make any difference. I.e. their vote has zero marginal utility. The lack of good choices often deters voters. They prefer not to vote rather than choosing between two evils. Criminalisation of politics is one issue that people have a major problem. Candidates with criminal record should not be allowed to contest election is the popular opinion of many.

Secondly people feel that one vote will not make a difference. One vote out of many will have no effect or change the course of the elections. They believe it is too bothersome to go out and vote if firstly the candidates that are standing are not good and worthy of contesting. And secondly if their vote is lost and doesn’t sway the results

Getting the Electoral Photo Id Card is another hindrance for many voters. Out of those surveyed 27 % [6] did not vote because they did not have a voter ID card. The process of getting the voter ID card in India is long and cumbersome. The procedure to apply for the voter ID card in India is as follows.

To apply for voter ID card, or includes one’s name in voter ID card list, ones need to fill up the required form and submit it at the constituent assembly’s ERO office. If one is applying for voters ID card for the first time, one needs to fill form 6. If any corrections are to be made in an existing voter ID card, one needs to fill form 8. If one is seeking deletion of one’s name from an electoral list, one needs to fill form 7.

The documents that are required are proof of your address and age. These documents can include Income Tax Assessment Order / Driving License/ Passport/Applicants Ration Card. Latest Gas/Electricity/Telephone/Water Connection Bill in the name of the applicant or his/her parents/guardians.

Various camps are organised in constituencies but proper publicity for the same is lacking. On talking to people I found out that the camps are organised at such times and places where it is tough for an average working class man to go. Also the officials in charge of the camp are not very efficient or polite. Citizens in municipalities like Bangalore are served by Assistant Electoral Registration Officers at every Revenue Department’s sub-division offices and by Electoral Registration Officers at the Revenue Department’s Division offices. Voter registration forms are accepted during regular office work timings, Monday-Saturday. This deters people from getting their ID card made

Another problem that I found out was that the forms tend to get lost or mixed up. The forms are transferred from the camps to the District Electoral’s office for verification. During the transfer, some forms get lost or misplaced and in some forms the photos get de attached. Reattaching the photo can cause a mix up.

In November 2003 an exercise was conducted in the state of Rajasthan to correct electoral rolls. In the State of Rajasthan alone, over 7 Lakh entries were corrected. Over three Lakh ninety thousand names were added and over three Lakh seven thousand names were deleted, in a speedily conducted exercise. [7] The election commission has a detailed and seemingly comprehensive set of instructions to periodically revise and verify electoral rolls. Despite this, surveys conducted by organizations engaged in electoral reform like LokSatta in Andhra Pradesh and the Association for Democratic reforms from Ahmedabad have estimated incorrect entries in electoral rolls to be as high as 30-40 % in urban areas, and 15-20% in rural areas. Finally when the rolls reach the District Electoral’s Office they are uploaded on the computer. Even then continuous updation is not done and this causes trouble people looking at the status of their voter ID card.

During elections the long lines and difficulty in reaching the polling station hinders voters. Many times the names are missing from the electoral rolls. In brief we can sum up the problems as given in the following table

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