In earlier blogs I argued that when the number of voters in a polling booth is higher than 1,320, then not all the voters in the booth can cast votes in the allotted polling hours. CEOs deny voting rights of citizens by design when they increase the booth size beyond a limit. This argument was based on logic. With further analysis, we have evidence.
After the Assembly Elections 2013, CEO, Karnataka, published Form-20 giving the details of votes polled in each booth of the state. He also published the count of voters in each booth in another document. From these documents I extracted voter counts and votes polled for 41,441 booths. (CEO-KA has later removed these documents from his website. Document properties show the date of creation as 23 May 2013.)
We find a clear correlation between decline of voter turnout % and polling booth size whereas the number of people who vote does not increase beyond a count.
The table below gives the booth sizes in different ranges, number of booths in that category and turnout in number and turnout % in them. Because a larger % of big booths are in Bangalore, I have given the counts for Bangalore in separate columns.
The table above and bar graph below clearly shows decline in voter turnout % when the size of booth crosses 1,400 voters. When the size crosses 1,600 voters, the decline is even sharper. Whereas the turnout % in Bangalore is lower till the booth size is about 1,600 voters, for booths larger than that, the figures are close to those of Karnataka as a whole.
Whereas the voter turnout % reduces significantly when the booth size increases beyond 1,600 voters, the counts of people who vote in these booths do not increase much with the size of booth. No correlation of votes polled and booth-size beyond a size indicates that booth’s capacity and not voter apathy reduces voter turnout %. Bar graph below helps in visualising this reality too.
Other than some increase at the tail-end, maximum number of voters are found in booths whose sizes are between 1200 and 1400. When the size increases, voters may be de-motivated thinking of possible long queues. This is an assumption based on the data. Surveys with this hypotheses may give better insights.
When we talk of the need for electoral reforms and voter apathy, our priorities are wrong. The CEOs should first adhere to the rules and guidelines of ECI and ECI should ensure that they so do. Reforms before that would be like paint on a rusty surface, allowing the rust to eat the metal inside while exhibiting shine outside.