The new Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) on assuming office on 19 April stated, “free and fair elections based on error-free and authenticated electoral roll with higher level of participation of voters with inclusiveness…” These are only expected of the commission and are reiterated. However, electoral rolls of most states today have rampant duplicate and illegal entries and abundant absurd errors. They have been so for years – at least for the past six years I am observing them. Illegal deletions are not restored. Several sound guidelines of ECI are not honoured by CEOs. Despite repeated feedback and offers of help to improve the system, the CEOs and ECI have not responded to my mails. Nor have they acted on the feedback.
I wrote a mail congratulating the CEC expressing hope that he would raise the standards and service levels of his esteemed institution.
In his speech he also expressed a desire, “all voters who interact with the system have a pleasant experience and feel happy,” which is not the case now. My experiences of the past six years have mostly been unpleasant. Many of my friends and acquaintances are frustrated with the attitude of various authorities in the chain. My phone calls to officers of ECI are blocked by their PAs. They make false promises of calling me back. It is difficult to reach to any CEO’s office, in general.
In my mail I summarised the issues:
- Proliferation of ERMS implementations by various states, resulting in avoidable errors, different look & feel, higher cost and lower efficiency.
- Various ERMS at State/UT level do not honour ECI guidelines, standards, rules, and processes.
- Rampant duplicate entries in most of the states.
- Poor data quality leading to absurd errors.
- Booth sizes much larger than recommended maximum, leading to lower voter turnout%. In some cases, the size is larger than the maximum votes we can cast in an EVM.
- Deletion of voters during rationalisation of booths.
- Non-deletion of dead voters, those who have shifted residence and other illegal entries.
- Unfriendly staff. Registration, deletion, and modification is difficult. This leads to lack of trust and poorer quality of the rolls.
- Imbalanced roles and responsibilities and inadequate use of software technology at various levels of the organisation.
- Lack of transparency and willingness to listen to feedback and suggestions.
For the past five years I have been giving feedback on various issues and have been offering help to correct some errors. In 2013 I shared with ECI Technical Team a software to identify suspected duplicate records by comparing text data in voter records and then filtering by photo comparison. Sample checks have shown this approach to be very effective. I helped the ECI team to install and prove the software. I have also shared it with CEO-TN too and helped him in using it.
I have some prototype solutions and ideas to improve the quality of ERMS in several areas. I’ll feel rewarded if I can help the system.
I wrote the mail on 20th April, which is 8 days ago. I don’t expect a response. So much for “all voters who interact with the system have a pleasant experience and feel happy” desire of the CEC.