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Improvements in the Electoral Process

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Governance

Improvements in the Electoral Process

In the current elections, I was not allowed to vote as my name was deleted from the voter list in an arbitrary manner. I have been staying the same house (my own residence) for the last 10 yrs, have a valid voter ID card and have voted in all the elections at all levels in the last 10 yrs. To top that, our house is never locked. Obviously the enumerator was too lazy to come house to house and randomly decided to label it as (S) shifted. Of course, I have lodged a complaint and requested the Chief electoral officer if the process can be improved such that this does not happen again.

But this set me thinking. What are the things that can be improved. These are constructive suggestions, ie am not suggesting the election commission does a bad job. It does a marvels organised job on such a scale in many ways. However, there are a lot of things that can be improved.

Please read through and give your thougths and further suggestions. I plan to refine this based on your feedback, weed out the bad ideas, make a neat little document and send it to EC. Dont expect much out of it, but might get somebody thinking !

 

1. Voting mechanism

There has been much discussion on the importance of having a paper trail in voting. The idea being that if the EVM(electronic voting machine) is tampered with or malfunctions, there is no way of knowing, however having a paper trail is relatively foolproof. The author thinks that the paper trail should be available, to ensure that there is no tampering with the process, and equally important of keeping the perception that the process is clean and transparent.

It cannot however be argued, that the EVM has considerably simplified the whole process. No more cumbersome loads of paper, ease of transporting and counting, no more booth capturing etc. Can the benefits of both be combined ? Probably yes.

One way one can think of Paper Trail, use small size paper as a printout, much like the bill you see in card swipe machines. The paper being only 10cm x 4 cm approx, makes it not at all cumbersome to carry around and has information only of the symbol voted.

The issue with this the extra electronics and cost associated as well as battery back up required. However, since there are only a few known symbols to be printed, this can be reduced to a simple electro-mechanical device which essentially does the stamping function, previously done by the voter. Previously, in paper voting, all the symbols were there and the voter had to select one. Instead, if we turn that around and the voter in effect is stamping (through) the machine only the symbol of interest, that reduces the paper burden at the very minimum. In short, it is possible to design an uncomplicated, selective electro-mechanical stamper which does the function based on the electronic vote cast. And this way, one can get a paper trail without the associated negatives of a paper trail.

 

2. Second preference or even third preference voting

In a true democracy, one votes for the candidate who one feels is most capable of taking care of the constituency's interest or at least the voters intrest. And that is that. However, here even if one has a most preferred candidate, one may not vote for him if the voter feels the candidate does not have a good chance of winning. In other words, the voter is already second guessing other voters, the other voters have already influenced this voter. This goes against the spirit of democracy, wherein one votes ones intent without undue influence or force by other parties. This is a much more serious problem than the exit poll that the Election commission has banned.

Nowadays, this has gone to one extreme. In the multi-polar contests that we are witnessing, a voter may like Candidate X the most, but will vote for Candidate Z, not because Candidate Z is his next preference, but because candidate Z has the best likelihood of beating Candidate Y, whom he does not want to see elected. Is this democracy or russian roulete ?

The way out of this in the current multi-party system is to have second preference or even third preference votes. So if the first preference votes do not add to 50% of the votes polled, then one counts the second preference votes and so on. So a person having his heart on candidate X, he will vote for candidate X without bothering about electoral arithmetic, knowing if the person is not in contention, his second preference vote will be used.

Is this hard to implement ? No. Whether with EVM or paper voting, its quite easy to do this. Is it complicated for the voter ? No. If the voter can do the above mentioned arithmetic, and now days everybody has a cellphone and easily dials 10 digits, how difficult is it to explain to the voter to do a 1,2,3 ordering of preferences. Of course the option is always available to the voter not to give 2nd or 3rd preference, if he is firm on only one candidate. To extend that, the voter can also be given an option not to cast even his 1st preference (none of the above), which has been requested by some.

To facilitate voter training, a dummy machine can always be placed outside the booth where he can understand and practice(if need be) so that it does not take up the actual voting time.

 

 

 

3. Filtering out of Non serious candidates and parties

Nowadays, one finds a long list of candidates and the corresponding symbols in a polling booth. Except the top 3 or 4, the others will get votes which can be counted on ones fingers, or in any case are absolutely inconsequential. One should have at the most a max of 5 candidates in the electoral roll. Too many candidates just adds to the burden of all concerned, voter to scan, there is a greater possiblity of mistake, more symbols means more clutter, more work for election commission, more paper if it is a paper based system, more counting etc. Not to mention more money spent in campaigning, more noise and pollution.

Hence there must be some qualification, ie some way of weeding out the non-serious candidates. Non-return of the small deposit is inconsequential in todays elections. One suggestion is that either the candidate or the party has to have won an election at that or next lower level either in the same constituency or any adjoining constituency in the last 15 yrs. So for an MLA election, one victory in any ward(corporator) in that constituency or any contigous constituency by that party or individual. Similarly for MP, a victory in an assembly election in the same parlimentary or contigous parlimentary constituency in the last 15 yrs. (If not a victory, then has to have polled 20% of the votes polled at any level ... that is quite liberal)

There could be others. The non-refundable deposit amount can be hiked to the amount allowed for campaigning, that is Rs 16 lakhs ? Or one has to get signatures of 1% of the voters (translates to rougly 2000 voters in an assembly election). Whatever is the method, it should ensure only serious candidates are in the fray without it be misused to stop a genuine candidate. The methods mentioned in the previous paragraph carry more appeal, because it ensures that candidates work from bottom up, as it should be.

 

 

4. Creation of electoral roles, validity and deletions

Change in the way electoral roles are created

Fundamentally, to change the system to a house based rather than person based.ie A polling booth caters to all houses in a locality and the residents living in them. This is a little different from having a list of people who stay nearby, though the intent is similar. The primarily list is is a list of residences and then the voting rights are given to people residing in them. So when a person comes to the polling booth, you first check the residence, and then check if the person is a valid resident of that residence.

There are a number of advantages of this system. For one, there is no confusion of which polling booth, since a polling booth always caters to a given list of residences in that geographical area/locality. People move around, but houses dont. Once a building is constructed, it stays for decades. Its easy for a person to check if there has been a misuse, he can always check if in his house, somebody else is been shown to be staying. In the current system, if extra incorrect names crop up in the voting list, one has no way of knowing. There is pressure on both, the Election commission as well as the voter. The Election commission, because it cannot arbitrarily say a house is empty or does not exist, is forced to account for every voter. The voter, because he will be worried if somebody else is shown staying in his house, the idea is very uncomfortable, and that can be misused. A list of valid owners is easy to obtain from the muncipal office and if the owner is not staying, one only needs valid rental agreements to check against the original owners. People are very worried about their property and this becomes an extra legal check for them to ensure that their names are present against the house.

This can be extended to slums as well. In any case it is better than the current system.

 

Validity

Currently, the election commission checks every now and then, the updated or valid list of voters. A number of names get arbitrarily deleted in the process. Otherwise the election commission has no way of knowing if a person has died or moved out of the area. Instead the election ID card should be with a valid by date (say 5 yrs), so the onus is on the individual to renew it and non-existent voters naturally get weeded out.

 

Deletions

My experience, my name got deleted without the enumerator every coming to check the house. It was less work for him to not come to the area and mark as (S) shifted. The solution, enumerator must specify who else is staying in the house. He cannot just say house is empty, that would then presume that the person was out when the enumerator had come. Once a valid voter ID is created, the onus is on the Election commission to disprove it, not the other way around. Alternatively, the above principle (mentioned in the paragraph Validity) can be used.

 

 

5. Electoral malpractices

Bogus voting

Taking photograph of voter and compared with photograph list or photograph and height ?

This can be cross-verified at a later date. This will put the fear in the voter that he can be 'caught' even later and a jail sentence of say 6 months can be given. Just having his photograph and height or any other identification can discourage these voters. Nowdays, with digital electronics this does not cost much.

 

Buying of votes

Combing booths while counting at least at ward level (10,000) votes, that makes it very difficult to identify the bulk bought votes. This is a major problem today.

Voter education, consistently giving the message that your vote cannot be known. Making buying and selling of votes a jailable offence of upto 6 months in jail. Displaying this at the booth and mandatory telling voter his rights and responsiblities at the booth in a few sentences.

 

 

6. Fixed day for elections

Having a fixed day in the year when elections are to be started for any election anywhere in the country. (As happens in US, but this is fixed only to particular day, not the year itself). That takes out ambiguity, helps govt. and other officials plan around it, ensures it does not clash with festivals or flooding, school exams etc.

The flip side is if the parliment gets dissolved out of turn, say 1 month after the date, then one has to wait fo 10 months before election, that is a few months more than what typically happens now. That may not be a bad thing. If that is not satisfactory then one can have two fixed dates in the year, approximately 6 months apart.

 

7. Campaigning facilitation

The election commission can facilitate campaigning in a non-partisan manner. That would reduce the use of money and help put a level playing field. Things it coud do .. mainfesto sharing, create a booklet and post to each house. In that booklet every candidate gets the same number of pages to put in on why one should vote for him. Hold publically held debates (ward wise for assembly elections) and assembly constituency wise for parlimentary elections. The idea is whoever is intrested in knowing about the candidates has a standard means of doing so. This removes some of the campaigning money required, or reduces the impact of money in elections of atleast the marketing part. Fixed times for “talk to the candidate shows” on television, radio etc locally. But for these it is neccessary that there are a limited number of candidates in the election to start with.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

psaram42's picture

A fit case for a PIL?

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An exaustive blog on electoral reforms. A fit case for a PIL. Pull up the person / agency responcible!

Nice seeing you after a long time Suhas!

srkulhalli's picture

Contempt of Court in the EC case

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I checked with PG Bhat who has been active with this. It turns out that my name was deleted inspite of a high court order (which was his first PIL in which the court asked the EC to restore 13 lakh deleted voters names)

 

So that would mean a lot of deletions on this May 5 the election were done inspite of the high court order. Would anybody else be interested in participating in a contempt of court proceeding?. If there are 5-6 solidly committed people, we can look at this.

 

Suhas

Suhas

murali772's picture

I'm on

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@ Suhas - I have been looking for interested parties in pursuing this matter from long. Perhaps, after a scan through this blog, if you could contact me, we could take it up further.

Muralidhar Rao
Vasanthkumar Mysoremath's picture

"Mother of All Frauds' - Electoral Rolls ?

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Before 2005 LS Elections we, a group of senior citizens of the then ward 18-Basaveswaranagara wanted to create a better Electoral Roll that had been dubbed by the media as Mother of All Frauds. This effort was duly supported by Vote india Movement of Janaagraha Ramanathan and Lok Satta Jaiprakash Narain.  We took up Rajajinagara I R Block for a 100 per cent test check, created a list of our own and through Vote India Movement, brought the then EC Sri Krishnamurthy to the door step of voters. With Mr.Abhijit Das Gupta in tow, EC went around and found that it contained nearly 50 per cent fraud.  The list created by civil society was taken seriously and further efforts to create a near perfect Electoral Roll started.

Please also have a look at the following article on Electoral Reforms that was raked up during 2005 elections - it contains a proposal for 'Online voting by using UID Aadhaar':to create a better percentate of voting with better participatory democracy for majority voters rule.

An iPetition has been created and I request all Prajas to sign the same so that before the next General Elections in 2014, we may hae a semblance of better democratic set up bereft of criminalisation, corruption etc:

http://www.change.org/en-IN/petitions/indian-people-government-election-commission-parliament-enact-electoral-reforms-before-indian-parliament-elections-2014

 

AFRAID OF ELECTORAL REFORMS?

by Vasanthkumar Mysoremath

Social Activist, Bengaluru/Mysore

       Government of India (UPA-2) appears to be making all the right choices and noises for introducing  reforms in the fields of education, economy, judiciary,  employment, poverty alleviation and  Unique ID number to all Indian citizens etc.  These reforms augur well in projecting India as the greatest living democracy in the world with vibrant, progressing with their traditional thoughts and making the country a power to reckon with in a global scenario.  But what should have been the first priority of UPA-2 – THE ELECTORAL REFORMS – appear to have been pushed to the backburner in its priorities in parliamentary affairs and creating a futuristic ambience in good governance.

        Every time the subject matter of Electoral Reforms is brought forward either in Parliament or broached for a public debate, majority of the political parties have adopted a blow hot blow cold attitude.  Such lackadaisical approach or escape mechanism is resulting in unbridled criminalisation of politics, people loosing faith in governance, failure of systems, checks and balances to control corruption due to glaring systemic failures with resultant untold sufferings to the common man. 

       There is no free lunch in this world and not everybody enters politics just to serve the poor and the needy.  Many have declared that they have become crorepathis after they were elected and even in a small State like Arunachal Pradesh that went into Assembly Polls recently, out of 151 candidates, there were 60 crorepathis and in Maharashtra, apart from crorepathis, there were a record number of criminals who had entered the fray. 

       It is 65 years since independence and it is time to bring in a semblance of online course correction for ensuring good governance and erase the dubious distinction of India being governed by a flawed democratic system and uncontrolled corrupt practices.

       Why there is avoidable delay in ushering in the much sought after electoral Reforms?   Who is holding up the suggestions made by well known political analysts like Mr.L.C.Jain and a host of other luminaries, to create a transparent and accountable system of governance, a vibrant society and a reliable political system?

        It is time for all political parties and citizens to introspect, create necessary environment to stem the rot and decay that has crept into our body politic before it is too late and before it eats the core of democracy. All of us must become proactive, ensure participatory democracy and insist with one voice to bring in legislations for amending the terms, conditions, acts, rules, codes, to the Peoples Representation Act and Constitutional provisions etc., for a transparent and accountable governance, political system. India needs to enact Electoral Reforms without further delay.

        The following few suggestions appear to be relevant towards making electoral reforms:

(1)   Set up an All Party Electoral Reforms Committee and involv all those who matter. Let there be political and public debates to enact Electoral Reforms. Election Commission and others have forwarded enough recommendations to the Government of India to take further action but the powerful political lobbies have been scuttling the issue whenever the subject is broached.  Let us make a beginning and the time is now.

(2) Amend the Peoples Representation Act, Election Rules, Constitution of India and all other relevant bylaws, codes and provisions pertaining to eligibility of persons for contesting for elections;

(3) Prescribe a minimum educational qualification and maximum age;

(4) No person with criminal background (FIR filed or sentenced or convicted) should be allowed to contest (this is a debatable point but must be sorted out with utmost expediency from the judicial point of view);

(5) Make voting compulsory – Recently Mr.Narendra Modi’s government in Gujarat has proposed to makevoting compulsory in all local body elections and has proposed some deterrent action for those who willfully avoid voting, although voting is optional at present.  This proposal cannot be dismissed as something that cannot be implemented under the present Central laws or legally enforceable. It is being commented that it violates a person’s right to exercise his franchise and it is his will and wish whether to or not to vote.  Such problems can be overcome and even levy of some kind of fine on those who willfully avoid voting with the syndrome ‘my one vote does not count and it cannot correct the decaying system’. 

(6) Another possibility for making the people to make them get up and go and vote is by giving some incentive – say two per percent rebate in electricity/ water bill for a limited period, say for two months. 

(7) Existing election provisions pertaining to ‘None of the above’ and ‘Recall’ options need re-examination for making the process/procedures simpler.  The former option of ‘none of the above’ provision in the ballet paper has run into controversies and one version is that if this option itself gets a majority, will there be a re-poll and can we afford such costly experiments. The option of ‘Recall of an elected representative’ appears to be a better step towards ensuring transparency and accountability.  It will enable the electorate to recall an elected representative, if he fails to come up to the expectations of the electorate but has managed to become a slumdog millionaire within one year, whether he should be given the option of stepping down voluntarily by surrendering the excess wealth he has accumulated during the period he held the office of profit for his own ‘political and economical upliftment’ or by being recalled through simple process by the voters of his constituency has to be discussed through public debate.

(8) With the creation of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) under the able leadership of Shri Nandan Nilekani of Infosys fame Indian citizens can aspire to have a unique ID number to prove they are citizens of India.  The UIDAI is creating fool proof allotment of random Unique Identification Numbers to nearly 1.2 billion citizens of India, of which more than 700 million citizens are above the age of 18 years and are eligible voters.   This technology-based bold and unique experiment has thrown up a wonderful maze of opportunities.  Election Commission of India(ECI) and UIDAI can convert this opportunity into making votinghassle free for the citizens. How?  Presently, citizens are experiencing delays and difficulties in getting one’s name included in the electoral rolls and to obtain an EPIC; the list of eligible voters prepared contains unpardonable mistakes and the list itself has been dubbed as ‘the mother of all frauds’ by the media; votingpercentage is hovering around 45 and 57 per cent during the last 14 Lok Sabha elections; huge amounts are being spent to create minority voters rule, etc.

    ECI can take the help of UIDAI for enabling the citizens to vote from where they are through Kiosks  set up with proper protections like unique number protected, built in firewalls, private key and public key adopted technology key  to be set up in all nooks and corners of India and at select places around the world for enabling NRIs and others to exercise their franchise. At present during an election, most of the details about candidates contesting an election are being made available on internet.  ECI can adopt a similar technology based solution to make available to a voter a list of candidates of his area of residence to enable him to just key in his UID number and help increase votingpercentage; this is akin to Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) for drawing of money from any ATM (popularly called: Any Time Money) kiosks. There is nothing impossible and with technocrats like Nandan Nilekani and a progressive thinking Election Commission of India for a futuristic ambience, technology can reach out to the grassroots level for helping the country to score more brownies in the eyes of the world.  Yes, India can.   

       Present day young and eligible voters appear to be disgusted and disillusioned with the flawed democracy and the rampant corruption that is in vogue and being practiced by all those in power without any control.  They want a change and there is a wave of awareness.  If they want a clean management/ government system, they must evince more interest in the democratic way of governance and by giving up making cynical remarks and by just being arm-chair analyzers. They must indulge themselves in participatory democracy.  Their yearning for a change for a coherent, corruption-less and better system of governance in the country must find its way into the public life by being the change they want to see; They should  not get disenchanted with the archaic poll norms and abstain from taking active part in the process of nation building.         

      Citizens also must fulfill their duties and responsibilities in addition to claiming the rights under the Constitution; they must become proactive by ensuring that their names exist in the electoral list, go to the polling booths and cast their vote, fulfill the Constitutional right of exercising their franchise, help create a majority voters rule. Apathy of voters has resulted in minority voters rule and is not the right way to ensure a democratically elected government and it creates a paradoxical scenario of ‘first past the post’ or a hung verdict.  This results in criminals in jails and all those who have been branded as anti-social elements to get elected as MPs/Legislators.  Such people with low morality are winning elections with muscle and money power and those unscrupulous elected representatives are indulging in hop, skip or jump, horse trade, enter into unholy alliances or compromise themselves for ‘living together’ and become victims of various kinds of ‘operations’ for the sake of sticking to power.

     For correcting all these ills of democracy, for instilling confidence in the minds of people and to prove that UPA-2 means business with regard to creating a better governed India, Yes UPA-2 can bring in Electoral Reforms now that it has a better mandate.  It is now or never for Congress led Government to earn the good will of the people, showcase its will power to prove that it has the ability to herald bold reforms for ensuring transparency and accountability. People are sick of the way they are being taken for a ride with every election by self-centered and power hungry leaders.  Youngstersmust lead the show. 

     Yes India can cure its governance afflicted with AIDS (Alarmingly Infected Democratic System) by its democratic doctors – the Voters..

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Your considered views are welcome

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MaheshK's picture

Two suggetions to add to the

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Two suggetions to add to the list:

1. Right to recall the elected reps.

2. Minimum qualification to contest elections. At least a degree, not the SSLC incomplete candidates. Note that former Haryanan home minister Gopal Kanda (who is in jail now) is an eight std dropout. What do we expect from these people?

Other issues:

Voting mechanism: More booth capture and stuffing the ballot box with ballot papers. EVMs with upgrades should be fine.

Second preference or even third preference voting: Not sure if this works. Try to explain this to millions of voters who cant read or understand the electoral process, but who will vote anyway based on caste or money they receive at that time.

Filtering out of Non serious candidates and parties: In a democracy anyone can contest for elections. Potential candidates have money and Rs. 16 lakhs is no big deal. What will happen to Loksatta party candidates? Btw, how many of that party candidates got their deposits back?

Bogus voting: May be the use of UID can play a role in reducing /eliminating bogus voting.

Buying of votes: We have discussed this on Praja.

Fixed day for elections: In the era of no-confidence motions and splitting parties, the election date need to be flexible to accomodate mid term elections.

Creation of electoral roles, validity and deletions: EC can only do so much. They delegate work to others and expect it to be done. Unfortunately not everyone do their job right.

Please understand that its the elected reps are the ones who vote to bring the new laws. How many political parties will stand up and fight for the change? Also its the people who vote in the elections. They need to elect those who can do things for the better.

We live in the real world. We need to think more realistically.

srkulhalli's picture

Good points

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THanks

@ MUrali, OK ... am going to see if we are going to get 5 - 6. Yes I went through your entire blog and  suggestions ... pretty exhaustive. Unless we are a minimum number, dont plan to take it up

 

MaheshK .. was just trying to see if we can get a consesus among the few of us on what needs to be done. I guess I agree on some of your points but not all. Its going to need a lot more discussion and I understand how tough a job it could be for the EC to get consense on what to do next.

Vasanthkumar ... most of the points are generic in nature and I would agree. However, I would not agree with compulsory voting ... we dont want to push people who are not interested to contribute to making the wrong choices .... instead how about no voter can be denied right to vote, ie make it a fundamental right and somebody needs to be penalised if a voter is denied his due ... Sorry, also am a little skeptical about this online petition, too many of them floating around (Murali already has one to the President along similar lines) for them to be taken seriously

 

Suhas

MaheshK's picture

Taking Initiative is important

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Suhas,

At least you have taken the initiative. Thats commendable. My suggestion would be to start something that's doable in the short span of time. I do know that other issues take lot of time and drags on.

Vasanthkumar Mysoremath

Glad to see you on Praja. We met at the Fuel eff. workshop on April 17. I think we were talking abt Hunsur project?

 

 

 

Vasanthkumar Mysoremath's picture

Right to Recall can keep the Reps on their toes

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@ Mahesh

Thanks Mahesh. Abt ur suggn. on Right to Recall, please see item 7 of my post above. It details how it can be brought into force since Gram Panchayats have the provision for passing 'No Confidence Motion' on the President/Vice President and others of a GP.

Yes, the Save Lakshmana Theertha River Project is on. Last month when Hon'ble High Court Justice Sri N.kumar visited Hunsur for opening of Legal Assistance Cell when more than 1000 people of Hunsur Tq attended, I took the opportunity, went to Hunsur from Mysore, addressed the gathering during interaction, handed over two representations for converting them into suo moto PILs - on (1) Save Lakshmana Theertha River from extinction and (2) Direct District Administration to reduce tobacco cultivation by 20 percent per annum so that India can honor its UN/WHO FCTC Protocol as a signatory for reducing tobacco by 80 per cent by the year 2020. 

After the event also, at the IB we had lengthy discussion and he said that he would do his best within the ambit of law to convert it into a PIL.

 

murali772's picture

consensus may be building

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Alluding to some of the comments made on this blog, I wish to submit that the following exchange (in a google-group) quite reflects how the Civil Society's thinking in the matter has evolved of recent.

SR:
Few years back from Malleswaram swabhimanaa Initiative we also took up such exercise. In fact we went on a door to door survey and submitted the omission and additions to the department. Alas, until & unless the concerned citizen submit the death certificate or transfer of address, department cannot take action. Rule says so, which is understandable. Thus, Our whole exercise was wasted. Infact this exercise we took up with the assistance of the departments - Health & Revenue.
 
This time also I had pointed out that such a person is no more. Voter's list still carried out the same list, without any deletions.

One more point, they do the survey in English, write it down in Kannada and then translate it in English to make data entry. That's the reason for such mistakes.


I responded:
If this be the case, on what basis was SmartVote carrying on its "voter list clean-up" drive in Koramangala before the Municipal elections, and Janaagraha in similar fashion (supposedly under an MOU with CEO/ SEC) in Shantinagar(?) Either way, since job calls for proper accountability, I believe the only way to do it is through out-sourcing to professional organisations, perhaps on the lines of Passport office engaging TCS for their back-end work, and IT dept engaging Infosys, likewise. And, left to them, they will come up with proper ways of getting uptodate and accurate voter lists. Civil Society can play the role of watch-dogs.

A group, which had filed a PIL earlier, asking for revision of the voters' lists (but, by the same CEO/ BBMP/ NIC combo - check this), is now looking at the possibility of pursuing my suggestion.

Muralidhar Rao
n's picture

Law commission has published

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Law commission has published a consultation paper on electoral reforms.  and has supposedly solicited suggestions from the stakeholders (we the people?).


Vasanthkumar Mysoremath's picture

Law Comn must include all CECs recommended Reforms

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The following are the recommendations made by successive CECs that are pending with Government from 1998 onwards - Law Commn's consultation paper does not include all of them.  Appears to be a list of selective reforms: 

source: http://eci.nic.in

Important Electoral Reforms proposed by the Election Commission

1. De-criminalization of politics

Date on which proposal was made – 15th July, 1998.

Reiterated in November, 1999, July, 2004 and October, 2006.

· For preventing persons with criminal background from becoming legislators, the Commission has made a proposal for disqualifying (from contesting election) aperson against whom charges have been framed by a Court for an offence punishable by imprisonment of 5 years or more.

· Under the existing law (Section-8, ROP Act, 51) there is a disqualification once a person is convicted and sentenced to imprisonment of two years or more (in thecase of certain offences mentioned in sub-sections (1) of Section-8, conviction itself leads to disquali-fication, even without any sentence of imprisonment). The Commission’s proposal is for disqualification even prior to conviction, provided the court has framed charges.

· As a precaution against foisting false cases on the eve of election, it has been suggested that only those cases in which charges are framed six months prior to an election should be taken into account for that election.

2. Political parties reforms

· The Commission has suggested that legal provisions be made to regulate the functioning of political parties and the Commission should be empowered to regulate registration as well as de-registration of political parties.

Date of proposal – 15th July, 1998.

Reiterated in July, 2004 and in March and July, 2006.

· The political parties should be legally required to get their accounts audited annually. The audited accounts should be put in public domain. There should be transparency in the fund raising and expenditure of political parties.

Date of proposal – 15th July, 1998, reiterated on 5th July, 2004.

2

· Income tax exemption for donations should be given only for those political parties which contest election and win seats in the Parliament/State Legislature.

Date of proposal – 3rd March, 2006.

3. Misuse of religion for electoral gain –

· A Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha in 1994 [R.P. (second amendment) Bill, 1994], whereby an amendment was proposed providing for provision to question before a High Court, acts of misuse of religion by political parties. The Bill lapsed on the dissolution of the Lok Sabha in 1996. The Commission has proposed that the provision in that Bill should be considered again.

Date of proposal –29th January, 2010.

4. Amendment of law to make `paid news’ an electoral offence

· The Commission has been proposed amendment in the Representation of People Act, 1951, to provide therein that publishing and abetting the publishing of `paid news’ for furthering the prospect of election of any candidate or for prejudicially affecting the prospect of election of any candidate be made an electoral offence under chapter-III of Part-VII of Representation of People Act,1951 with punishment of a minimum of two years imprisonment.

Date of proposal – 3rd February, 2011.

5. Punishment for electoral offences to be enhanced-

· Undue influence and bribery at elections are electoral offences under Sections 171B and 171C, respectively, of the IPC. These offences are non-cognizable offences, with punishment provision of one year’s imprisonment, or fine, or both.

· Under Section 171-G, publishing false statement in connection with election with intent to affect the result of an election, is punishable with fine only.

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· Section 171 H provides that incurring or authorizing expenditure for promoting the election prospects of a candidate is an offence. However, punishment for an offence under this Section is a meager fine of Rs.500/-

· These punishments were provided as far back as in 1920. Considering the gravity of the offences under the aforesaid sections in the context of free and fair elections, the punishments under all the four sections has been proposed to be enhanced and made cognizable.

Date of proposal – February, 1992

6. Government sponsored advertisements

· For six months prior to the date of expiry of the term of the House, there should be a ban on advertisements on achievements of the Government.

· Advertisements/dissemination of information on poverty alleviation and health related schemes could be exempted from the ban.

Date of proposal – 5th July, 2004.

7. Prohibition of Campaign during the Last 48 Hours-

· Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, prohibits electioneering activities by way of public meetings, public performance, processions, advertisements through cinematograph, television or similar apparatus during the period of 48 hours before the time fixed for conclusion of poll. However, this Section does not include print media. The Commission has proposed that Section 126 should apply equally to the print media also.

· The Commission has further proposed that house to house visits by candidates/supporters should also be specifically prohibited during the said period of 48 hours, to allow the electors period of tranquil to decide their option. Necessary amendments should be carried out in Section 126.

Date of proposal – This proposal was made in the background note for the regional consultations on electoral reforms in December, 2010.

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8. Punishment for false affidavit by candidates –

· Section -125A of R.P. Act, 51, provides that furnishing false information in the affidavit filed by the candidate is an offence punishable by imprisonment upto six months or with fine.

· There is no clear provision for follow-up action in the event of candidates filing false affidavits.

· There are several complaints of false statements in affidavits, false statements mislead the electors.

· In order to strengthen the disclosure provision, the Commission has recommended that Section-125A of R.P. Act, 51, should be amended to provide that any complaint regarding false statement in the affidavit filed by the candidates in connection with the nomination paper shall be filed before the Returning Officer (RO) concerned within a period of 30 days from the date of declaration of the election and that it shall be the responsibility of the RO to take proper follow-up action Alternatively, complaint can lie directly to the Magistrate Court.

Date of proposal – 3rd February, 2011

9. Negative/neutral voting -

· In the ballot paper and on the ballot unit, after the particulars relating to the last candidate, there should be provisions for a column `none of the above’ to enable a voter to reject all candidates if he so desires.

Date of proposal – 10th December, 2001.

Reiterated in July, 2004.

10. Amendment of law to provide for filing of election petition even against defeated candidates on the ground of corrupt practice-

· As per the existing law, election petition (EP) can be filed only for challenging an election of the returned candidate (winner).

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· If a defeated candidate has indulged in corrupt practice, there is no provision for election petition against such candidate.

· Commission has recommended that the law should be amended to provide for filing of EP in cases of commission of corrupt practice by a losing candidate as well.

Date of proposal –24th April, 2009.

11. Ban on transfer of election officers on the eve of election

· In the case of general election, there should be a ban against transferring any election related officer without the concurrence of the Commission for a period of six months prior to the expiry of the term of the House.

Date of proposal – 15th July, 1998.

Reiterated in July, 2004.

12. Rule making authority to be vested in the Commission

The Commission should be given the power to frame rules under the R.P. Act, 1950 and 1951.

Date of proposal –15th July, 1998.

13. Totalizer for counting of votes -

· The proposal is for amendment of the Rules to provide for the use of totalizer for counting of votes at EVM elections.

· Using totalizer , it would be possible to take out the results of votes polled in a group of 14 EVMs together as against the present practice of counting votes polling station wise.

· In such a system of counting, the trend of voting in individual polling station areas would not be known. This will prevent intimidation and post election victimization of electors.

· The proposal has been referred to a parliamentary committee in 2009.

Date of proposal –21st November, 2008.

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