Sate Election Commission (SEC), an organ of the state government, is responsible to conduct local body elections. Thus, it does not enjoy autonomy like Election Commission of India(ECI). Rules and policies of SEC are not well documented. Practices are arbitrary.
SEC borrows a dump of electoral rolls database from Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) and reorganises the records to suit local government elections like that of BBMP. All the legacy errors in the rolls maintained by CEO are inherited by SEC. In response to a mail to SEC reporting the errors in the rolls, he responded that CEO is responsible for the quality of rolls. CEO had written earlier that errors and omissions in the rolls used by SEC are not CEO’s responsibilities. None between the two wants to be accountable.
Staff maintaining the electoral rolls and helping in the conduct of elections are the same for CEO and SEC. When new registrations, deletions, or corrections are made to voter lists, they are updated in CEO’s repository. If SEC does not synchronise his repository with that of CEO, data completeness suffers. Voters querying at SEC website would be confused and frustrated.
While SEC has not clearly documented policies and procedures for maintenance of electoral rolls, we find two major deviations from ECI policies, followed by the CEOs of all the states and union territories:
- ECI policies state voter lists as open documents. In Jan 2013 when CEO-KA imposed CAPTCHA and also made electoral rolls as image files, ECI instructed him to remove the access restrictions and to publish them as pdf text files. Now SEC has put CAPTCHA control and also published the rolls as image files. Thus, it is not possible to even search a voter name in the document. There has been no response from him for repeated mails with requests to publish the electoral rolls as pdf-text files and to remove CAPTCHA.
- CEOs freeze the rolls ten days before the last date for withdrawal of nomination. SEC has massively updated his voter lists on 18th, just 4 days before the scheduled date of BBMP elections.
Unacceptably poor data quality of the rolls in CEO-KA voter lists are inherited by SEC.
On 06 August I wrote to SEC, CEO, and Commissioner of BBMP that more than 99% of the voters registered since 01 Feb 2015 are not included in the BBMP voter lists. Again on 13 August I wrote about exclusion of registered voters from the electoral rolls. When there was no response to these mails, on 15 Aug I wrote to the chief minister, with copy to High Court of Karnataka, SEC, CEO, and Commissioner of BBMP, requesting to include the newly registered voters in the rolls.
By 17 August, more than 5,00,000 registration request were approved, but not included in BBMP electoral rolls, though added to the CEO’s voter database. Similarly about 60,000 requests for deletion were approved and deleted from CEO’s voter database, but continued to appear in SEC database.
In a press conference on 17 Aug, held by B.PAC, I highlighted this issue again.
On 18 August we see that the approved voters are included in BBMP rolls and deleted ones are removed. We are glad about it. I cannot claim that more than these actions were due to my intervention. It is true that they were not in the rolls till 17th August and I have been trying to get the names included. There is a response in action though the authorities did not communicate with me.
All is well that ends well. I hope it is the beginning because this journey would be long.