Thursday, June 23, 2005

ELECTIONS: Democracy within walking distance

How can we ensure highest turnout of voters in elections? Simple. Set up polling stations within a walking distance.
For the 2002 elections, Election Commission set up 88,554 polling stations, with 164,377 polling booths. It intended to have about 150,000 polling stations, according to some press reports, but could not meet the target due to administrative and logistical problems.
The ideal figure of polling stations for the coming Local Government elections will be 215,000. For a total population of 150 millions, the average population per polling station will come to 700, giving a range of as low as 500 and as high as 1000. It will mean a very short distance for all voters. Every village will have at least one polling station to avoid travel to another village.
To save expenses, every polling station may have just one polling booth. If women do not want to vote with men at some places, they may vote in batches. It will not cause any delay because the number of voters per polling station will not be much.
The benefits of having 215,000 polling stations will be many:
a) The transport of voters is 60-80% of a candidate’s election expenses. It will be eliminated entirely as no voter will need any transport.
b) The voter turnout will increase tremendously as all of them, especially women and old people, will find it convenient to vote.
c) The counting of votes will take much less time because their number at every polling station will be very small.
d) By spending a little extra money on polling stations, the Government will effectively take the big money out of the elections.
If both the Government and the Election Commission commit themselves publicly and right now to having 215,000 polling stations, they will be ensuring highest voter turnout. The experience may be put to good use in 2007 general elections.
We talk of justice at the doorstep. Let us have democracy within walking distance.

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