On Saturday, July 15th, Citizen Co Lab hosted a discussion centred on voter registration to, actual voting on the day. Three presentations were made and they explored on quality of voters roll, voter mobilisation, civic engagement and voter registration amongst other related issues.
Retired Commander P.G Bhat, implored on quality of the voters roll highlighting flaws such as duplication of records, duplicate voting and fake entries. He highlighted virtual deletion of votes and the issue of voting booths being larger than permissible. Citing findings from his research on voters roll data, Commander Bhatt amongst other findings, implored on non-inclusion of approved claims and objections. He presented evidence of entries that had scant data on section address and large number of blank house fields as well as cases of wrong house addresses.
Commander Bhat also noted errors in age ,sex, relationship as well as what he considered a bloat, as census figures and voters do not tally .In one particular example he cited a case of one person whose name is spelt differently and also female voters registered in two different names i.e. one of the father and the other husbands name.
In another instance he gave an example of 165 records having the same photograph. Going forward he suggested that there is need for validation of the voters roll at software level for the main database.
Anjali Saini of Whitefield Rising made the second presentation titled Million Voter Rising, it’s all about voting focusing on how their work in Whitefield is fighting low voter registration. She highlighted that initiatives are meant at getting people to register by printing forms for mass voter registrations by engaging the electoral commission. Key highlights of Mrs Siani’s presentation was when she noted that more than half of the people in Whitefields are not on the roll and interestingly, the winning margins of elected candidates is close, giving examples of ward election results with some securing victory by only a few hundred votes. Thus to address this, her organization began building awareness by encouraging people to come out in large numbers to register and vote as well as doing research (candidate background check) with the aim of influencing voters to a more suitable candidate.On voter registration,Mrs Siani added that they encourage online registration to manual as the registration is swift. Whitefield Rising hopes to mobilize even more citizens to register and vote through social media platforms such as Facebook.
Some of the work Anjali highlighted was how their organization followed up voter verification with the relevant local electoral body and how they engage with collaborators. Whitefield Rising also highlights to the residents on the impact their vote makes and on why they should vote. To make collaborators responsive, Anjali said that they work with ward committees and collaborate on community issues with responsible leaders.
Lastly but not least, Srinivas Alavilli and Tara Krishnaswamy of Citizens for Bengaluru (CfB), an organization that works for civic participation, made a presentation about their work on voter mobilisation, and voter education through civic education on responsible and active citizenship.Their modus operandi is giving residents information on who their leaders are and what these leaders ought to do, to serve communities better. Mr. Alavilli highlighted that they make posters on roles of leaders to make people understand. They also work with and celebrate local heroes highlighting why their work matters as a way of empowering people by decentralizing. They seek to create a buzz and engage citizens to work on their voter registration campaign targeting mostly the 18-23 years age group on platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook and those at local colleges complementing it with door to door campaigns.
The main points discussed was relating to quality of the voters roll, voter mobilisation, voter registration and voter verification.Also noted was younger voters , the trials of encouraging them to register and vote.
I walked out of this discussion with the understanding of the Bengaluru local voters registration and voting process, I walked out enlightened of different tactics being employed on the ground to increase involvement of local civic groups and young voters. I left with the questions: How will Bengaluru improve the quality of the voters roll? How will the citizens group improve their footprint and encourage civic engagement? How will Bengaluru increase voter turnout and target first time and young voters?
Organize a bigger level meeting with big level partners to create hype that bring in new voters to increase voter registration
Partner with a number of media outlets for high impact
Document Commander Bhat’s findings in easily readable format
Create a scorecard on relevant stuff of candidates
Share existing voter roll in open data format so community groups can use the data to increase and improve registrations.
PG Bhat, Anjali, Tara, Alavilli, Neetu, Laly, Sanjay, Mala, Yogeesh, and Oorvani Team