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A Study in Apathy: The 2019 State Assembly Elections

The voting polls for the Maharashtra and Haryana 2019 state assembly elections closed yesterday, with a final turnout that was both abysmal and shocking. The state of Haryana recorded its lowest voter turnout in 50 years, with the state of Maharashtra recording its lowest in 39 years. These atrocious numbers beg the question, is this a general case of voter apathy, or crucial mismanagement on the part of authorities? The answer: an unfortunate blend of both.

According to the District Information Office, an approximate 59 Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) units and 19 Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) needed replacing in the Nagpur district due to technical glitches, with similar discrepancies with vote-recording systems reported in Haryana’s Gurugram.

In a tweet on the subject, AICC General Secretary Avinash Pandey said that a number of the RVMs at many polling booths in Mumbai were not functioning correctly. “We have set up this war room since 6 am. We are getting information from poll booths, mostly that Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) are not functioning properly, these were changed at a few places,” he said.

We got a complaint from Ramtek Assembly constituency booth no. 337 that if you press one particular button on the EVM, a different symbol comes out on the VVPAT. We have filed a complaint with the EC in this regard,” he added.

Evidence of voter apathy can be observed when comparing this year’s voter turnout to its 2014 counterparts. The provisional voter turnout statistics of Maharashtra number at approximately 60.05% until 6 pm, which is a significant decrease from the 2014 figure of 63.08%. The numbers in Haryana are even more disheartening, with an approximate 65% voter turnout, which when compared to the 2014 figures of 76.54%, showcase a real problem with our country’s mentality towards voting and general social responsibility.

Haryana’s national capital region of Gurugram registered a scarce voter turnout of 51.20%, with the Maharashtra capital of Mumbai performing even worse at 44.78%. The constituencies of Badshahpur and Panipat City in Haryana recorded the lowest turnout in the state at 45%, with the constituency of Faridabad following at a close third, at 48.2%. Maharashtra’s Ulhasnagar constituency recorded the lowest turnout in the state, numbering at 31.72% which is a good deal lower than its 2014 numbers of 38.25%

These numbers cannot be attributed to a lack of polling stations, which saw a significant increase from their numbers in the previous elections. A total of 19,425 polling stations were set up in Haryana, accounting for 90 assembly seats, which when compared to the 16,244 stations set up in 2014 show an increase of nearly 19.6%. Similarly, in Maharashtra, 95,473 polling booths were set up across the 288 assembly constituencies, which account for a 6.6% increase of over 90,403 booths in the previous assembly elections.

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Logic dictates that the incumbent government is most likely to continue to remain in power if fewer people turn out to vote, meaning that the BJP is likely to maintain its hold on the governing powers of both the states. This follows the widespread social backlash over the results of the BJP’s Lok Sabha victory, which roused feelings of anger and resentment amongst pockets of the general public, who urged fellow citizens via social messaging to “vote better, and vote smarter” when next given the opportunity. This year’s frightful turnout for the state assembly election is a sad indicator that our country’s youth, while quick to defend and vocalize their political views, tend to turn apathetic when it comes down to action. The time has come for us to get louder with our electoral involvement than just armchair activism. Our future is in our own hands.

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