Voter Turnout in Bangalore 2014 Loksabbha Elections - Myths and Realties

Its everywhere. The perception of low voter turnout in Urban Bangalore. Newspaper and television reports say that low voter turnout has shamed the IT city and that middle/educated class is primarily responsible for it. Read. But most of these reports don't delve in details and hence miss arriving at right conclusions.

This year had more than a casual involvement in voter registration process as we had published quite a few articles on How to Register Online for VoterID, How to Search Name in Voter List, etc. Reader's overwhelming response for these articles kept our interest alive in the process. Based on this, here goes a quick analysis:

First, the raw facts and numbers:

There are 3 parliamentary constituencies in urban bangalore and here are the voter turnout numbers for this election:

Parliamentary Constituency Voter Turnout %
Bangalore Central 55.70 %
Bangalore South 55.69%
Bangalore North 56.47%

Looks quite low, isn't it? Especially if we compare it with the Karnatka average of 67.28%.

Devil is in Details

But let's compare these numbers to the last loksabbha elections' numbers (based on

Parliamentary Constituency Voter Turnout % in 2009 Voter Turnout % in 2014 % increase over 2009
Bangalore Central 44.55% 55.70 % 25.02%
Bangalore South 44.74% 55.69% 24.47%
Bangalore North 46.72% 56.47% 20.86%

Wow! Purely from an improvement perspective, an increase of 20 - 25 % is a great success for the electoral system. Lets pat the back of all those who were involved in whatever way in this success. CEO Karnataka has been one of the pioneers in introducing online voter registration which is a decently managed system and has worked for large number of people. There have been many voter registration drives e.g., ToI, Smart Vote, etc. that led to registration of large number of new voters.

Still around 55% voter turnout is way less than ideal. Based on our limited exposure, here are some never discussed causes that may have led to this small number:

  1. People were not aware that their name is in voter list

    • A large chunk of people apply for voter cards while a drive is going on but they don't get any intimation of their successful inclusion in the list. Most people expect that either Voter ID card will arrive at home or some other notification will be sent to them, but sadly this does not happen. In general, people don't know how to follow up or the process is too complicated for them to follow up.

    • Many people don't know that they can search their names online. But even those who searched online were not able to find their names in the list due to following:

      • In many cases, search was not working when full name was entered. One had to enter only the first name / partial name. We have posted about it in this article.

      • Spelling mistakes in records which made it impossible to search by name.

    If we want to improve voter turnout, there is a serious need to intimate voters in some way or other (e.g., sms/email) about their successful inclusion in list.

  2. Inaccurate Voter list

    • Deletions of name does not happen properly - Many people shift their residence and apply for voterID in their new residence area. But their names do not get deleted from the old area, thus increasing the count of voters. For e.g. in our case, even when we filled up all the details of old voter card and submitted a xerox of it, our name did not get deleted from the old area's list.

    • Multiple entries of same person - Sometimes there are more than one entry of a single person in the voting list (even when no moving is involed). For example, one of our friend applied through voter drive in his area and his name appeared twice in the list (in different polling stations, though around same area)

  3. Many people were not even registered to vote
    It has been alleged by some that outsiders/non-locals didn't come out to vote. Here we need to understand that there are two sets of outsiders/non-locals: 1) Registered to vote in Bangalore. 2) Not registered to vote in Bangalore. As far as we know, many people tried hard to get into the set 1 from set 2. And those who have taken such pains to get into set 1 would have definitely gone out to vote on the voting day.

    We think its the set 2 that should be analyzed more. Many outsiders fall into this set - i.e., they are not even registered in Bangalore voter list. Why don't they bother to register themselves in Bangalore voter list when they are residing here. Below are some of the reasons observed by us:

    • Many people are not clear if they can apply for a voter id in Bangalore when they already have their names in the voter list of their hometown. They remain confused thinking if it is morally/legally right thing to have names at two places.

    • Large number of people are still hopeful of returning back to their hometown and hence somehow want to retain their old voter id card for address/id proof purposes.

Overall Scenario

  • Even though the voter turnout is not ideal in urban Bangalore, it is a huge improvement from last loksabbha elections.

  • It is just not about the apathy of the voters, but the overall voting system leaves much to be desired. There are large number of process improvements that need to be addressed in the the problems observed above.

  • Urban Bangalore is a very different constituency with large scale migration of people from all parts of India. Plus, the movement of people inside the city or out of the city is also high. This necessitates more than regular workload for election office people (who may not have the right number of people or right resources to manage this complex reality).

Category: experience