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Home >Politics >Policy >Elections 2014: How state chief electoral officers real-timed voter turnout

The third round of polling which concluded last week revealed much more than the heavy turnout of the electorate. It showed the prowess of state election commissions or the lack of it (in most cases) in reporting voter turnout.

Arguably the best performance was that of the chief electoral officer (CEO) of Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Chandigarh. All of them leveraged technology and the Internet to provide regular updates on voter turnout; in the case of Haryana it was on a real-time basis.

The Kerala CEO made this possible by using of short message service-based information to put a structure in place to not only a real-time update of not just the total turnout but also Lok Sabha (LS) constituency wise turnout, and if one dug further, it had the turnout for each assembly constituency which adds up to the bigger LS constituency.

Chandigarh went one step ahead and gave micro data on the total turnout, male to female break-up and even the total turnout of young voters and senior citizens. Madhya Pradesh, too, keeping in mind its vast Hindi speaking populace, published real time data on the turnout, both general and gender-specific.

All three have used this service for the first time in a general election.

The model was first used by the state CEO successfully during the 2011 assembly elections, said Sabu Paul Sebastian, additional CEO of Kerala. “We are using an SMS (short messaging service)-based poll monitoring platform. Every official at the polling booth sends hourly updates on the turnout which is monitored at the central office and published online," he said.

Voting took place in 91 parliamentary constituencies, which included seven in Delhi, 20 in Kerala, six in Bihar and 10 each in Maharashtra, Haryana, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh.

The Chandigarh CEO reached out to a group of young software developers who helped them devise a programme to source data from electoral rolls and use it to check specific turnouts like gender, age, etc. The CEO has used an innovative method of bar coding all the voter identity numbers in the Union Territory.

“The idea was simple, bar code every ID and use a bar code reader every time a person walked in to vote. This helped use reduce manual intervention to a great extent," Anil Kumar, CEO of Chandigarh said. According to Kumar, in order to reduce expenditure, his office used computers from the education department and upgraded it to match the software requirements.

For Madhya Pradesh, the focus was on two things—giving gender-wise data and disseminating information in a language that would reach a larger section in the state.

“Keeping in mind that the state comprises of a huge Hindi-speaking population, we ensured that the data we were publishing was in Hindi. Also, a big part of the media in Uttar Pradesh is Hindi, so it was much easier to make the public access the information," Pralay Shrivastav, nodal officer of media management at Madhya Pradesh CEO, said.

However, not all state CEOs gave real-time turnout update. Bihar, for instance, gave only live webcast from polling booths and not the turnouts. When asked why, the response from a spokesperson was: “There was not any direction from the Election Commission to publish data on turnouts. We were doing webcast because we were asked to do it."

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