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Electoral Rolls - Election Commission considers Post Office as Nodal Agency (1999-2002)

LOK SATTA conducted detailed field studies of voter registration defects in AP. Voter registration process, though impeccable on paper is inaccessible to the citizen and ineffective in correcting flaws. Our massive sample survey proved this. The survey covering 56 rural and urban polling station areas covering a sample of over 40,000 voters proved the problem to be bigger than we had expected. The survey revealed 15% errors in rural areas and 44.8% in urban areas. The magnitude of the problem can better be comprehended when we realize that the 500 votes in Florida that decided the US Presidency are only 1 out of 200,000 votes cast (.0005%).

Happily voter registration flaws can be corrected to a large extent by making the process open, verifiable and accessible to citizens. Keeping in mind especially the rural populace, LOK SATTA suggested that the citizen friendly neighborhood post office be made nodal agency in voter registration for (1) display and sale of voters' lists for a nominal price (2) the availability of statutory application forms for adding or deleting names (3) receiving of applications and forwarding to the registration authorities. (4) making the results known to citizens. All this would reduce a lot of hassle and simplify the voter registration and correction of electoral rolls.

LOK SATTA approached the Election Commission with the survey findings. The Election Commission accepted our findings and responded positively to our suggestions. They agreed in principle to use post offices as nodal agencies for citizen access to registration process. In the first phase, voter lists and forms for addition and deletion of names will be made available at the post offices. As a result of our exercise, the Election Commission had begun intensive verification of electoral rolls all over India in Nov 2001.

This survey and the Election Commission's decision to make post offices nodal agency in voter registration are important landmarks in the evolution of Indian democracy. It will be some years before the full impact of this will be felt. And it requires enormous publicity and mobilization of civil society all over the country to use the opportunity to cleanse the electoral rolls. With over 600 million registered voters and 15 languages, it is no small task. But this is a vital first step in the mammoth task of reforming our large democracy and making our electoral process genuinely fair and vibrant.



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