Elections 2019: Fears of Disenfranchisement Loom Large, Nearly 12 Crore Voters May be Missing

Image Courtesy: DNA

“The point of democracy and its elections is to ensure that the basic right to vote is not taken away from the citizens,” said Shakib from the Missing Voters campaign. According to the campaign, analysis of government data revealed that approximately 11% of the households had single voters. The data was analysed by converting the names on the electoral rolls, available in an image file format into excel sheets.

However, when this data was compared to the census Household Size Report it was found that the percentage of the same was stated to be 4-5% of the voters. Khalid Saifullah who has been associated with the campaign said, “There was a huge discrepancy in the data from the two government sources. When one adds up the number of single voters in households, the number of voters comes down by 17-18%, which is questionable.”

Through the analysis of the data, the team has claimed that as many as 12 crore voters may have ended up being disenfranchised, due to multiple factors such as Aadhar linking, social backwardness, illiteracy etc. However, the important thing to note here is the fact that majority of this number is constituted by the marginalised sections- dalit and Muslim households. Saifullah added, “There are approximately 3 crore missing Muslim voters and about 4 crore missing dalit voters.”

With barely a month to go for the Lok Sabha election, the campaign through a volunteer-based system and a mobile application is doing its best to integrate voters. Shakib explained, “Through the app, we tried to map residential areas and put a system in place, to verify if the households actually had single voters. Those who have been skipped are now being enrolled again and our volunteers are tracking the process at every stage.”

With more data emerging from the states, the extent of the problem becomes stark. As Newsclick had previously reported, in Uttarakhand, approximately 12-13% of the total electorate is at a risk of being disenfranchised, which translates to up to about 5 lakh voters.  It also revealed that about 90% names missing from the voter list are of dalit and Muslim voters.

In Assam, 1.2 lakh voters have been marked "Doubtful" by the poll panel, incorporating names of those who could not provide evidence in favour of their Indian nationality. The existing draft roll of the voters was published on September 15, 2018, and the final roll was released on February 6. The voting in Assam will take place in three phases on April 11, 18 and 23.

Meanwhile, surveys in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan and elsewhere have found equally large number of people missing from voters’ lists. In September last year, over 22 lakh voters had gone missing from the electoral rolls in Telangana between 2017 and 2018, ahead of the assembly elections.