Rolling Out Electoral Rolls

Summary

Electoral Rolls of 27 constituencies of Bangalore have serious errors and omissions. When the authorities did not react to repeated feedbacks and request to correct anomalies, a PIL was filed in the High Court of Karnataka. The Chief Justice agreed with the issues raised in the petition and directed the CEO to correct various data errors and also to restore illegitimately deleted voters.

CEO published a new set of voters’ lists on 28 Jan 2013. Download of the voter lists by software program was disabled. Prajalytics, a software company, downloaded the files for 27 Bangalore constituencies manually and extracted voter records. On learning this, the CEO converted all the voter lists to image files, disabling data extraction from them. Data quoted in succeeding paragraphs is based on the voter lists of 27 constituencies of Bangalore city downloaded on 28 Jan 2013.

Blocking Feedback

Vigilant citizens are now blocked from analysing and checking if there is a contempt of court by CEO. The CEO states that he would identify an agency to verify. Some of the agencies with whom CEO has partnered have been providing very poor quality of service. E.g., Director General of SEARCH INDIA told that a survey report from his organisation was not professionally prepared.

Voter Deletions

  1. Between July and December 2012, CEO deleted about 13 lakh voters from the voter lists. He has accepted that these deletions were done without due diligence. As per the court order he is to restore incorrect deletions without the citizens having to register again as voters.
  2. Voter counts in the lists published on 28 Jan 2013 indicate that only some of the deleted voters are restored.

Registration Process. The process is not citizen friendly and is ineffective. EC has directed CEOs to collaborate with various agencies (educational institutions, banks, coop societies, RWAs, etc) to make registration more effective. CEO / BBMP have not taken any step in this direction.

Data Quality and Completeness   Voter records data quality is pathetic with absurd data and large number of blank fields. Data entry software should validate entered data and reject bad data.  

Introduction

CEO, Karnataka, published voter lists of 27 Constituencies of Bangalore city on 18 April 2012, 20 July 2012, 05 November 2012, 10 December 2012 and 28 January 2013. The rolls published on 10 December nullified the version of 05 November. Analysis of these documents reveal some patterns of errors, gross inaccuracies and indiscriminate deletion of lakhs of voters. About 200 of 6,389 files are incomplete – missing voter records.

Deletions

The Chief Justice of Karnataka had directed the CEO to restore all the incorrectly deleted voters. The following is inferred from the voter lists:

Deletions in Jul 2012         10,90,437
Deletions in Dec 2012          2,82,832
Restored in Dec 2012          1,87,103
Restored in Jan 2013          4,75,273
Total deletions                   13,73,269
Total restorations               6,62,376

In Dec 2012 and Jan 2013 lakhs of citizens submitted Form-6 though they were illegally deleted from the voter lists. Therefore, though CEO database may show them as newly registered voters, restoration is inferred because their names were in the list at the same address prior to July 2012.

In a meeting held on 20 Jan 2013, the CEO stated that

  1. 10,18,666 applications for registration (Form-6) were received during Dec 2012 to Jan 2013, of which 96.6% (9,84,030) were accepted.
  2. About 1,00,000 deleted records were restored without submission of Form-6.
  3. Of 30,868 deletion requests (Form-7) 29,382 were accepted.

Voters are still not in the list

From the above, count of voters should have increased by 10,84,030. Total of summary tables in the voter lists show 7,05,100 additions. This leaves out 5,96,670 pending requests to include in the voters lists. Citizens who have applied for inclusion are further confused by the incoherent and inconsistent statements from ERO staff.

Violation of Data Model

Instruction Manual for Standardization of Electoral Roll Database (Ver 1.0) published by Election Commission of India on 29 January 2010 defines database schema and naming conventions. Voter lists of Karnataka violate these standards.

ID Card Number

Hand Book for Electoral Registration Officers states, “EPIC Number is designed to act as the permanent unique identity for every elector and thus it is very crucial that, once created, this information is not lost.”

  • About 11,000 EPIC numbers are duplicated – the same number given to more than one person, or the same record is repeated with another serial number or in another file.
  • 22,879 IDs are arbitrarily numbered without complying with the new or old standard of numbering.
  • 91,453 EPIC number fields are blank.

House Number

    • 66,443 house numbers are longer than 10 characters, violating the guidelines.
    • 1,603 records do not have house numbers.
    • 53,844 house numbers are written as ‘.’,’-‘ etc.
    • 39,656 houses have more than 10 voters each. 112 houses show more than 100 voters each. One has 452 voters and another has 347 voters.
    • In a contrast, 8,88,555 houses have only one voter each.

Voter Name and Relative Name

  • Prefixes like Dr., Prof., etc. are not allowed as per EC’s data standards. However, these are used in thousands of records.
  • 1,911 voter names have ‘Late’ prefixed.
  • Aliases of names are used in hundreds of places. E.g., (Ammu) Shanthi, (Cheluvaraju) Gangamma, etc.
  • 1,431 records do not have voter names. 157 names are one character long.
  • 5,647 records do not have relative’s name or the name is one character long.
  • Standard conventions are not used in entering names, addresses, and house numbers.
  • Name of the same person is spelt differently as a voter, as father and as husband. Often, a voter’s father’s name is different from that of his mother’s husband.

Relation Type Suspects

  • Voters with more than one wife: 13044
  • Age difference between parent and child less than 13 years: 10,002
  • Husband shown as female: 1,829
  • Male’s relative is husband: 30
  • Same name of voter and relative : 1,482

Age of Voter

By EC’s standards, age of a voter should be between 18 and 120.

  • 502 voters are less than 18, including 39 voters who are 0 years old.
  • 96 voters are above 120. 17 are above 200 years. Voter with EPIC# XUL4087888 is 4,818 years old.

Sex

From the records it is difficult to guess if a wrong sex is assigned. Sample survey has shown some people where males are shown as females and females as males. E.g., one person is shown as male and female at two serials. See STZ0267013 and STZ3778412.

Address of Voter

Information is incomplete in most cases. No standard is followed. The same word is spelt differently at different places.

Data Quality

Electoral rolls give scant regard to data standards, quality, or completeness. As a result:

  • Search becomes difficult. Many voters are unable to find their names though included in the electoral roll. Then, either they do not vote or get another entry in the voter list leading to duplicate voters.
  • While making an entry, the authorities do check if the person’s name already exists in the list, resulting in large number of duplicate entries.
  • By entering the same data in different ways at different places, an entity loses identity. This hinders analysis of the voter list.

Website

CEO website has been unstable and error prone. The site is not intuitive and not inviting. There is no convenient way to give feedback and track responses. Error messages are misleading. Help messages are inadequate. Even silly spelling and grammatical errors exist.

Online registration feature has frustrated many citizens and is not corrected despite repeated complaints since July 2012.

Status tracking of registered voters is not effective.

Suggestions

Good use of technology can reduce efforts by order of magnitude and also improve quality and scalability of operations. Do the maximum possible using technology before collecting data or processing information manually. CEC has stated on 11 June 2012 that the EC would give priority to provide a clean electoral roll and hassle free registration and will use technology to achieve the objective.

CEO hoards data, hiding heinous errors and omissions. Electoral roll data should be transparent, help vigilant citizens to give feedback. He can even consider providing database dumps or text files with data and invite feedback. CEO should accept feedback and offer of help. Make the voter lists in text form like in other states – not image files. Allow downloading with software program by removing CAPTCHA.

CEO should partner with professional organisations and demand quality of products and services. Certificates their current software vendor flouts seem to be fake at least by spirit and their practices.

Correct the existing errors well before the next elections. Restore incorrectly deleted voters, include the citizens who have already registered. Delete duplicate and fake entries in the voter lists.

If a rule is not possible to follow, the organisation should change it rather than ignoring as impractical. Many tasks which are manually done can be done with less effort and more accuracy with software at a different level.

Many instructions are oral and not traceable. Written instructions and accountability should be practiced. Audit trails should be recorded in the database for all the actions required as per rules.

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About pgbhat

A retired Naval Officer and an educationist. Has experience with software industry. A guest faculty at different institutes and a corporate trainer with software development companies.
This entry was posted in eGovernance, Social Issue. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Rolling Out Electoral Rolls

  1. Udaya Kumar P L says:

    Fascinating analysis, thanks for publishing it.

    What is your opinion on the latest electoral rolls 17-04-2013 in Karnataka. Have the issues you point out in your post been taken care of these ?

    Like

  2. pgbhat says:

    We still have all the categories of errors. A lot more have been added recently while registering new voters. Unless the CEO demands quality and timely service from CMC, the software vendor, the mess will continue.
    I intend renewing my offers to work with CEO to improve the system and raise the level to CEC, again.

    Like

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