The Assembly election voting for the State of Telangana, which witnessed a three-way battle between the Congress-led alliance (consisting of TDP, TJS and CPI), the BJP, and the TRS, on the 7th of December, 2018, threw up massive allegations of mismanagement against the Election Commission. Multiple people including the Chairman of the Road Safety Authority of Hyderabad, T Krishna, and Badminton player and Arjuna awardee, Gutta Jwala, took to social media to complain about how their names had mysteriously disappeared from the voter’s list.

A quick search of #Whereismyvote on Twitter would throw up hundreds of results with people who just found out today that their names are missing from voter lists. According to The News Minute,  this may be due to the National Electoral Roll Purification and Authentication Programme (NERPAP) undertaken by the Election Commission of India in 2015. an exercise meant to ‘purify’ state electoral rolls of duplicate and bogus voters by linking Aadhaar with Electoral Photo ID Card (Voter ID cards), despite it being beyond the mandate of approved Aadhaar usage. The process that began in March 2015 was put to an end by the Supreme Court in August in the same year, but by then the Telangana State Election Commission had allegedly deleted 27 lakh voters from the rolls already.

As per The News Minute, the voter-deletion of about 27 lakh voters in the state, was done using an error-prone software which mapped Aadhaar data with voter IDs, and in many cases, without following due process and without voters’ consent. While some among these voters might have reapplied for their voter ID and made it back into the rolls, many remain unaware that they have been deleted from the electoral rolls and will find this out only on the day of elections.

While this may partially be the cause behind the widespread chaos and mass disappearance of voter names from electoral rolls found today, a lot of individuals, including Gutta Jwala, have come forward to claim that they had personally verified and confirmed their names on the electoral rolls available online at the National Voters Service Portal mere days before the election. If they were indeed deleted in the 2015 mass deletion, they wouldn’t have been visible on the National Voters Service Portal mere days before the Assembly elections. Apart from those even individuals who had submitted fresh applications, post-2015, and were shown by the online portal that their application was successful, subsequently found their names missing from the rolls today. Hyderabad native and IT employee Yash Raj Singh stated that he had registered for a voter ID card in September 2018, and had confirmed its status later on the National Voters Service Portal, which had shown him that the application was processed and approved on 18th of November, 2018. And yet, when he went ahead to his polling booth, he was shocked to find neither his nor his parents names on the voter list available there. Khaja Mahmood Shariff from Amberpet had a similar story. They had received SMS confirmation that their voter ID cards were ready but they neither ever received the card nor found their names on the list.

Numerous other common complaints ranged from individuals not receiving their voter id cards at all to some individuals receiving two voter id cards, non-existent voting booths, names of individuals who had died in 2011 suddenly appearing in the 2018 electoral rolls again,  faulty EVMs, to missing/wrong voter slips.

While the State of Telangana saw a voter turnout of about 70%, it is unsure who many individuals had essentially missed out on voting due to no fault of theirs and whether this would have any impact on the results, which are expected on the 11th of December.

The Chief Electoral Officer for the State of Telangana, Mr Rajat Kumar, had stated that they couldn’t do anything about missing names, and “it’s the responsibility of the voter to check it”. Later in the evening Mr. Kumar, stated the election commission will review the matter comprehensively and “aggressively revise” the electoral list for the upcoming general election in 2019.At the end of the day, being a Constitutional Authority, with one specific and vital function for the running of the Democracy, the Election Commission of India cannot so casually disregard the violation of the constitutional rights of thousands of voters. As the landmark case of Ashby v White [(1703) 92 ER 126] has established, that the denial of even one individual’s right to vote, irrespective of the impact of the said vote on the results of the elections, is a serious violation of the rights of the individual.

 

[Featured Image: Voters searching their names in the list at Falaknuma girls junior school of Chandrayangutta constituency on Friday. | Photo Credit: G. Ramakrishna]

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