Simple Arithmetic for Election Commission

A Times of India story states, “Mahant Bharatdas Darshandas is the lone voter in the midst of Gujarat’s Gir forest, home to the Asiatic lion, for whom an entire election team sets up a polling booth every election — and will do so again on April 30. … a polling team [of 4 to 5 people] travels around 35km to reach the hamlet of Banej inside the Gir forest, located in Junagadh district.” We salute the spirit and efforts of ECI to include every eligible citizen in the democratic process of elections.

When we care so much for the lone voter in a forest, are the provisions in populated areas adequate to allow every voter in a booth to cast his vote?

“Operationally an Indian EVM is a set of two units – the ballot unit and the control unit. A vote can be recorded only after the presiding officer enables the ballot unit through the control unit. However, even the presiding officer cannot enable the ballot for twelve seconds after every ballot is cast. Thus, a maximum of five votes can be cast in one minute.”  – Dr. SY Quraishi, page 192, An Undocumented wonder; The Making of the Great Indian Election, Rainlight/Rupa.

Taking minimum 12 seconds per voter, an EVM technically allows casting of maximum 5 votes in a minute in ideal conditions. For each voter to move out of the polling box and the next person to enter, we can consider about 18 seconds. Thus, practically, we expect maximum 2 votes cast in one minute if (a) the voters are enthusiastic and clear about the voting process; (b) the polling staff is efficient and ensure smooth uninterrupted flow of voters; (c) electoral rolls are clean and unambiguous … Remember that the officials search names in paper rolls – not on a computer terminal. People on polling duty take time to find a name in the rolls if the voter does not carry a voter slip with correct details. Though required, CEO-KA has not been giving voter slips in some areas. Queues at times stagnate when a name is not found in the rolls.

Polling booths remain open for 11 hours as directed by ECI. With uninterrupted flow of voters and super efficient polling booth staff, 120 votes cast per hour, 1,320 votes may be cast per booth in a day.

Paragraph 37 of ERO Handbook, published by ECI in 2012 states, “… Registration of Electors Rules, 1960 indicates that the number of names to be included in any part should not ordinarily exceed 2000. The commission has however, with voter’s convenience in mind, has desired that a part should not have more than 1200 electors in urban area and 1000 electors in rural area.”

ECI guidelines are not only for voter convenience, but are necessary to allow the system to work even in ideal conditions. If the voters in a booth exceed 1,200, many voters may not get their turn to vote.

Reality: 2,028 booths (more than 26%) out of 7,712 booths of Bangalore have more than 1,200 voters each. Booth# 280 of Sarvagnanagar constituency has 3101 voters. How can we expect more than 50% voter turnout in this booth?


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.
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3 Responses to Simple Arithmetic for Election Commission

  1. nageshramiah says:

    PG, You are really doing a yeoman service to the nation. I bow to you! Is there anything I can do as a volunteer in you efforts? Regards, Nagesh


  2. pgbhat says:

    Thanks, Nagesh.

    I am seeking help in the following areas:
    – Study the syllabus of various courses in schools and colleges. Develop case studies and projects that would bring awareness about ERMS and democratic processes. Develop various skits and activities for the students on this theme. With the suite of such suggestions, we can approach government departments, AICTE, some institutes, etc.
    – Less than 10% of the voter lists are published in English. This is as required by ECI rules though there is nothing against publishing rolls of other constituencies in English. Only AP has reached out by publishing all its rolls in English. CEOs of Maharashtra and Tamilnadu do not publish the rolls of Mumbai and Chennai in English though required. I have not been successful in extracting Indic text from PDF files. I want help and tips in this task.
    – Once we extract the text, we have to transliterate the data to English. Can someone help?
    – We have public data on telephone connections, property ownership, etc. We can take first steps to profiling of voters by matching these data with the voter data in electoral rolls. This will help in validating some entries and improve the quality of rolls. This would be an interesting text mining application.
    – Device a scheme to share subsets of electoral roll database with lower level authorities ensuring synchronisation. At present, people access the CEO’s ERMS server directly, only for enrolment. All other work is manual. This gives them limited information and restricted access. Once the chunk of data related to the lower level is available, we can prototype and suggest various software solutions for work at field level.
    – Build a prototype data entry application with good validation. We can use name frequency tables to suggest spelling corrections, names of the members in the house to suggest relationship and relative’s name in some cases, detect possible error in sex and age, etc.
    – Study websites of ECI and the 35 CEOs. Suggest changes for better usability and uniform look and feel. Many of the sites look childish and lack dignity.
    – Develop a tool to regularly check broken links and stale contents in the above 36 sites.
    – Study the documents published by ECI and audit the features in the 36 websites, identify missing features.


  3. Keshav says:

    When working on the voter rolls, I have always wondered if 1400 – 1500 people can vote in one day in the same booth. Looks like they cannot. This is the situation in many urban polling booths. EC keeps patting its back by saying this is the largest election on the planet etc. If anything they should apologize to the nation for denying the citizens their fundamental right. Thanks Cdr.PG.


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