Increase voter participation through online voting

G.S. Vijay Kumar By G.S. Vijay Kumar, 1st Apr 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Columns & Opinions

Having got used to the modern gadgets and their conveniences, it may be a bit too late in the day to expect them to come physically to the polling booth. E voting seems to be the only practical approach to tap this large pool of voters. Online voting seems to be the only way to increase voter participation. A voter can exercise his franchise and at the same time enjoy his / her holiday.

Increase voter participation through online voting

Adult franchise is the heart of democratic governance. The undesirable reality of voter apathy and cynicism, particularly among the middle classes, is likely to weaken our institutional foundations. Although, we have
815 million plus strong electorate in this country, low voter turnout has been the bane of our society, more
so in urban India. The middle classes are increasingly becoming indifferent to the electoral process. A vast
section of the the urban youth of this country is turning apolitical. We have observed that the turnout in
elections in the recent past has often been low, barring a few regions. There has been a sharp contrast
between urban and rural areas with regard to the voting percentage.

A large majority of the rich and the middle classes seem to discuss electoral politics in their drawing rooms
and social gatherings but when it comes to casting the ballot, they remain indoors. The main reasons for
these could be, in addition to indifference, sheer laziness, fewer voting centres and the long queues seen
at the polling booths and sporadic violent incidents. Additionally, a large majority of the middle class feel,
rightly or wrongly, that his vote is not going to make any material difference to the overall scheme of things
and therefore take a position as follows.“Why go the polling booth and waste time and energy in voting? ”


The urban section appears to consider the polling day as another paid holiday and seem to remain indoors
rather than go physically to the polling booth to cast their votes. They seem to consider this as sheer waste
of time. Additionally, if the polling day happens to be closer to the weekend, they jump at the idea and rush
to the nearest holiday spot for a short vacation.

These are days of twenty 20 and in almost every sphere of activity, many changes have been brought about
for the convenience of the people. The modern generation do not go to the bank branch to withdraw money
but prefer to go to the ATM’s to withdraw cash at their convenience. Many of the banking transactions
are done online. Similarly, gone are the days of standing in queues at the railway stations to book tickets.
They book their tickets at the click of a mouse. The same holds true for securities trading, buying cinema
tickets and so on and so forth.

Having got used to the modern gadgets and their conveniences, it may be a bit too late in the day to expect
them to come physically to the polling booth. E voting seems to be the only practical approach to tap this
large pool of voters. Online voting seems to be the only way to increase voter participation. A voter can
exercise his franchise and at the same time enjoy his / her holiday.

Had online voting been introduced for the recently held Assembly elections to the states of Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Rajasthan & Delhi, we would have seen a far superior voter participation. There are lakhs of
people from the above mentioned states living in various parts of the country and many of them could
have participated in the electoral process if only online voting were to be introduced.


The Election Commission needs to seriously introspect in order to motivate the majority of citizens to
take part in the electoral process. The Commission should play a more proactive role in order to
facilitate this process. One of the ways could be to look at online voting. With increased internet connectivity in the country, it would be a better idea to introduce online casting of ballots. The urban population has started using technology in banking, railway and airline ticketing, Securities trading,
movie ticket booking, online shopping etc and therefore there seems no reason why online voting should
not be introduced to get an improved participation from this hitherto apathetic section. Online voting
will considerably increase voter participation.

It is heartening to note that an estimated 150 million first time voters have been enrolled for the ensuing
2014 elections. Whilst this exercise deserves compliments, we should also keep in mind that a sizeable section
of students as well as workforce live outside their city of residence and are likely to miss out from the election process. The Election Commission needs to look into this and the earlier they introduce online voting, the
better it would be to make democracy more inclusive and meaningful.

These are extraordinary times and they require extraordinary handling of the situation. If online voting
is not introduced early, we will continue to witness poor voter turnout and non-participation of the
urban middle class from this process. The political parties and the news channels will debate the low
turnout on the national television and criticise the people for not participating in the electoral process,
but the election commission and the establishment will never come to know the real reasons for poor
turnout and whether the people at large wanted to participate in the election process or not.

In addition to online voting, the EC should also examine postal casting of the ballot as well as voting through
the telephone. Only when such measures are implemented, we will see better voter participation in this country.
In the case of the Defence Services, the facility of postal voting already exists. Similar methods to encourage
voting without physical presence needs to be seriously considered.

It may be worth mentioning that as soon as the dates for polling were declared, a group of young people
were seen discussing their holiday plans at an upmarket club that very same evening. Mumbai goes to polls
on Thursday the 24th of April and many people are likely to take an off on Friday the 25th and plan a longer weekend. Online voting seem to be the only solution to tap this otherwise indifferent section.



G S Vijay Kumar is a senior corporate executive and a columnist.

Tags

Chief Election Commissioner, Election, Elections, Elections 2014, India, Indian, Indian Elections, Lok Sabha Elections, Politics, Vote, Voter, Voter Turnout, Voters Rights, Votes

Meet the author

author avatar G.S. Vijay Kumar
I am a management graduate and have worked as a senior executive for 25 years in the corporate sector.I am a columnist and write on management, Economics and socio-economic topics.

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