It ironic that when the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) inaugurates Matadaata Mahotsav in Delhi on 14 Jan, Electoral Registration Officers (EROs) in Bangalore continue to run rogue, harassing and frustrating citizens trying to register as voters.
As yet another joke, the Election Commission (ECI) report states, “The Mahotsav would encourage ideas and suggestions for greater and qualitative participation.” ECI and various Chief Electoral Officers (CEOs) have been ignoring most of the ideas and suggestions of the past few years. They seldom respond to reports, emails or phone calls. What we need is some commitment from people working for ECI and various CEOs.
Entry point to the electoral system is voter registration. It has not been smooth in Karnataka. The process is faulty. Poor quality software and casual management has resulted in lakhs of easily avoidable errors in the rolls. Far worse is the arrogance and ignorance of officials.
- Electoral Registration Officers (EROs) are ignorant of various ECI rules. On 14 Jan at 1100 when a senior citizen approached BBMP Mahadevapura Zonal office to register as voter, he was asked to produce an affidavit stating that he is not registered elsewhere. The official could not tell the format of the affidavit and the rules which require such an affidavit. ECI letter No. 23/Inst/2015-ERS dated 8th July 2015 clarified at paragraph 3 that the citizen has only to sign the declaration at Section IV of Form-6.
- ERO duties include checking for duplicate entries. We have possible lakhs of duplicate entries in the rolls of Bangalore. Many are blatantly evident. No action is taken to delete the duplicate records for years despite repeated feedback and offer of help.
- A couple of months before the BBMP elections, some EROs refused to register voters above the age of 24 years, stating that they could be already registered voters.
Refusing to register citizens as voters despite the application being complete and legal, added with the arrogance of officials frustrate citizens. Incident of Mahadevapura is not an isolated case. Several EROs make it difficult for citizens to register as voters, spinning their own rules.
- When you go to register as a voter, take the phone numbers of your AERO, ERO and DEO (District Election Officer). CEO-KA homepage gives links to address and phone numbers of DEOs, EROs, and AEROs.
- If an official refuses to accept the Form-6 when it is completed as per the instructions in the form, call the AERO/ERO/DEO, seeking help in resolving the issue.
- Raise the matter to CEO-KA, if it is not resolved satisfactorily.
Unfortunately many DEOs are ignorant of the process and provisions related to the conduct elections. An example:
Namma Bengaluru Foundation filed an RTI asking State Election Commissioner (SEC) the number of votes that can be cast in an EVM. SEC forwarded the RTI to BBMP, who sent it to various DEOs. Here are some sample answers from DEOs:
- EVMs have no limit on the number of votes
- 3,840 votes per EVM
- Not known
- This data cannot be given
Even FAQ at ECI website states “EVMs can record a maximum of 3840 votes,” though the capacity of EVMs was reduced to 2,000 in 2005 as confirmed by ECI, CEO-KA, SEC, and BEL (one of the manufacturers of EVM). For the past two years, ECI has chosen to ignore my feedback on this error and misinformation at their website – like several other feedbacks.