Elections are Coming – ERMS: Electoral Roll [Mis]management System of Karnataka

Data Delayed

Election Commission of India (ECI) guidelines require all the Chief Electoral Officers (CEOs) of the states and union territories of India to publish new versions of electoral rolls in January and October every year. Most of the CEOs practice this, most of the times. This October, even with the assembly elections expected in May 2018, CEO Karnataka is yet to publish complete electoral rolls as on 12 November. He has published Kannada version the rolls for some constituencies of Bangalore on 03 November 2017. The rolls of 28 constituencies of Bangalore should be published in English as well, as per ECI rules. CEO-KA is expected to publish them by mid-November.

Delay in getting data and delay in justice both hurt.

Data Denied

There are two issues with the few electoral rolls Kannada version published on 03 November:

  1. The voter lists are PDF image files and not text files. We cannot search for data in image files and also cannot extract data from them. This is against ECI rules and is a serious limitation.
  2. To open a file, the user has to enter a CAPTCHA. This increases difficulties in accessing and downloading the files for analysis.

As per ECI, electoral roll PDF documents published on the websites of CEOs should be text PDF files (not images ) and are public documents.  They are so in the websites all other CEOs.

Because the voter lists at CEO-KA website were text PDF files in the past, we could extract the data and analyse since 2009. Feedback based on the observations have helped in improving the quality of the electoral rolls. CEO-KA has orally accepted so in several meetings.

By analysing the data in electoral rolls, we could detect illegal deletion of about 13.5 lakh voters of  Bangalore in 2012 – about 6 months before the last assembly elections. In 2015 we could detect exclusion of about 3 lakh voters prior to BBMP elections.

After the Karnataka High Court judgment of Dec 2012 on a PIL about the mass deletion of 13.5 lakh voters, in Jan 2013 the CEO-KA published the electoral rolls as image files with CAPTCHA protection.  Then I argued with the three Election Commissioners (ECs) at their office in New Delhi on 08 Feb 2013 that the action of CEO-KA was arbitrary, discriminatory, and contradicts ECI rules. I requested the CAPTCHA to be removed and the documents to be published as text PDF files.  Again I pleaded the same with the three ECs during their visit to Bangalore on 02 Mar 2013. CEO-KA was present at both these meetings. After a directive from the CEC, since 02 March 2013 CEO-KA website has been publishing voter lists as text PDF files without CAPTCHA.

When I spoke to the Joint CEO on 03 November, he told me that the rules have now changed and they can publish the rolls as image files. He did not give me references to the rules and was not free to discuss more. I doubt if the rules have changed because other CEOs publish the documents as text PDF files. The English version of the rolls to be published in mid-November would also be CAPTCHA protected image files, I suspect.

New parts are introduced in the current version of the rolls. E.g., Basavanagudi constituency now has 9 more parts. Such changes would be in other constituencies of Bangalore as well. This would result in a change of parts and polling booths for lakhs of voters, causing some confusion. In this context, it is even more important that the voters have easy access to the voter lists to check their data.

Data Lost

In 2012, CEO-KA had wantonly deleted about 13.5 lakh voters illegally. This was corrected by High Court order. A couple of months prior to the BBMP elections in 2015, about 3 lakh voters were excluded from the rolls. After complaining to various authorities and publicising the story, these voters were included in the rolls just a week prior to the elections.

Subsequently too, there have been illegal deletions of voters in small numbers.

I suspect such exclusions in the current version of the rolls. In the past lakhs of voter records were lost when new parts were formed in Delhi as well as in AP. This is due to poor process and low-quality software. Without getting the English version of the rolls in a format that will allow text extraction, thorough analysis about missing voters is not possible. We can only find a few sample cases.

However, I have a reason to suspect such deletion of voters. In the latest rolls, I do not find my entire section with 202 voters in the rolls. There could be several other such cases.

Wrong Data

Search for documents and voter records at CEO-KA site, Election Commission of India (ECI) and National Voters  (NVSP – from ECI) give us wrong data in some cases.

Some Examples:

  1. ECI website has links to PDF rolls of states and union territories. When we choose Karnataka on the search page, we get the electoral rolls published on 30 Jan 2014.
  2. At NVSP, procedures to access various data and to submit several application forms differ from those at CEO-KA website, which is often more restrictive. The results we get on queries also often differ, with the NVSP site giving stale data.
  3. When I search with EPIC for my data in electoral rolls, the record is found in part 219, polling station Shanthinikethana English School.
    1. This booth is not even listed in the version of rolls published on 03 November.
    2. My name does not appear in Part 219 or in any other part.

Such results from searches from the above three sites will mislead and confuse the users.

Messed Up Website

  1. If we try to enter CEO-KA website with his URL, the home page of Karnataka Public Services Commission flashes for a moment and then we get ‘page not found’ error. On entering <ceokarnataka.kar.nic.in/hm_ec.aspx> we get the home page of CEO-KA. This is not intuitive. Most of the users won’t know this.
  2. Search for electoral rolls of some constituencies (e.g., Mahadevapura) gives a message “Data will be uploaded shortly….!” Top of this page gives a link to the homepage, which again flashes Karnataka Public Services Commission home page and then gives “page not found” message. Even the links within the CEO-KA website lead to wrong pages.

These issues were reported to CEO-KA and ECI in early October.

Blocked Entry, Blocked Exit

CEO-KA website home page has a link to “List of Claims and Objections”   which gives the status of various applications:

  • Form-6 to register as a voter in the constituency. This could be a new voter or for a voter who has shifted residence from a different constituency anywhere in the country.
  • Form-7 to delete an entry in the voter list, either for shifting residence or death.
  • Form-8 to correct data in the voter record.
  • Form-8A to change address resulting in a change of part within the same constituency.

The status of an application could be one of

  • approved
  • rejected
  • being verified

When an application is rejected, the list gives reasons for rejection. Thousands of these reasons are illogical and confusing. Following is a summary of reasons for rejection of applications in the 28 constituencies of Bangalore.

  1. 11,073 Form-6 are rejected with a comment “Eligible for inclusion.” Applications for registration are rejected though eligible for inclusion!
  2. 6,060 Form-6 are rejected with a comment ” Not eligible – otherwise disqualified.” Based on Representation of People Act, ECI defines a disqualified voter as a person who is certified by a medical authority to be of unsound mind or a person who is convicted of certain classes of crimes. Do these applicants belong to these categories? I doubt.
  3. 12,982 Form-7 are rejected with the comment that the voter records may be deleted for 7 different reasons. If they may be deleted, why reject the requests to delete?
  4. 177 Form 8A are rejected, 175 with reason that the records may be deleted. It is not clear if they are deleted. Also, 2 rejections are with a comment that they may be included. The logic for all the rejections is not clear.

Active and Inactive EROs

On the paper, various initiatives were taken by the CEO’s organisation to increase voter registration. The ‘List of Claims and Objections’ indicate that only a handful of EROs have been active in registering new voters and deleting the shifted and dead ones during 01 January to 30 October 2017.

A few constituencies have received a large number of applications while others have received very few. E.g., max applications for enrolment in a constituency was 23,636 and minimum was 2,929. The table below shows some statistics. This could indicate a poor involvement of some of the EROs in registration drive and cleaning up the rolls.

171112-1

KR Pura has rejected a large number of requests for deletion. Mahadevapura and Bommanahalli have rejected a large number of requests for registration.

The following bar graph visualises the above.Total_Applications

Some EROs were more aggressive in rejecting applications for illogical reasons.Rejected_Claims__Obj

Some EROs have a large number of applications pending to process.Pending_Claims__Obj

More applications in a constituency would be a result of active EROs cooperative and encouraging citizens to register as voters and active voluntary organisations.

Mismatch in Voter Counts

During 01 January to 30 October 2017, the 28 constituencies of Bangalore received 6,38,801 applications in forms 6, 7, 8, and 8A. Their status is given in the table below.

171112-2

The above numbers would mean that the electoral rolls of October 2017 would have  89,697  more voters than in the rolls published in January 2017.

Voters in Jan 2017:          84,91,017

Expected increase:              89,697  (Added 1,86,492 – Deleted  87,697)

Expected total voters:   85,80,714

On 29 October 2017, a report published in Times of India stated that Bangalore has 84,97,192 voters. This count is 83,522 less than what is calculated as per the data published at CEO-KA website. The TOI report, based on the numbers they got from CEO-KA offices is accurate to the last digit, it may not be correct. The numbers don’t match with what is published in CEO-KA website. If the count of total voters reported by TOI is correct, then, 83,522 approved applications are not registered as voters. Another loss of trust in the system.

 

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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.
This entry was posted in eGovernance, Electoral Roll Management, Social Issue. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Elections are Coming – ERMS: Electoral Roll [Mis]management System of Karnataka

  1. JS says:

    Thanks, as usual, for an excellent analysis and presentation!

    Like

  2. Pingback: Analysis of Election Commission data throws up anomalies – Citizen Matters, Bengaluru

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