If you are a citizen in India reading this article, chances are high you've never voted. In previous articles we have gone into the political aspects of this matter and the reasons for this continuing malaise. But no matter what the difficulties with electing candidates of our choice, there is no running away from the fact that becoming a registered voter in 21st century India has become easier. In fact, one reason -- lack of instructive information on how to become a registered voter or how to correct an outdated voter registration -- is about to go away. And if you are reader of India Together, chances are high that the information in this article will get you started.
The Bangalore based non-government organization, Public Affairs Center, published an 'ABC of Voting' booklet in late 2002. Say the producers of the guide in the introduction, "Everything depends on us - the voters, who have an opportunity and the right to choose our representatives, demand accountability and determine the direction of growth and governance of the country .Active participation of citizens is an absolute prerequisite to make the electoral system more representative, fair, transparent and free from all the other ills."
According to PAC, this voter's guide has been conceived on the basis of a thorough assessment of needs and problems faced by eligible voters. It has information about the voter registration and the voting processes in India, including legal information and explanations of terms. Designed in a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) format, the main objective of the guide is to provide information and some useful tips to the Indian voter on procedures of registering/correcting/deleting entries on electoral rolls, procedures involved in casting vote at the polling booths and procedures for redressing grievances related to both - the electoral rolls and voting. Here are two questions taken from the guide.
Where do I go for registration?
- The Revenue offices of your municipality / City Corporation, if you live in a city or town
- Revenue Sub-divisional Offices for Mofussil districts
- Tahsildar's office for Talukas
- Offices of your local bodies
What are elector's photo identity cards (EPIC)? Are they compulsory?
Elector's Photo Identity Card is an official document issued by the Election Commission, which establishes your identity as an eligible voter. This card will soon be made mandatory for voting in elections. The Election Commission of India has initiated the distribution of EPIC to the eligible voters. Citizens whose names are already on the voter's list are eligible to get the Photo ID on designated days in each area. The task of issuing Photo IDs has been entrusted to the private agencies with state of the art technology, wherein a voter can obtain his/her card within 15 minutes at specific centres called 'Designated Photography Locations' (DPL), located at the selected polling booths in every Assembly consistency.
You've probably asked several other questions before and not found it easy to locate the answer. How and when do I register? What are the forms involved? What if I missed registering my name during enumeration? Is there a date by which I need to register? If I have changed my residence within the city, do I need to register at the new place? How do i locate my polling station? All these questions and many more are answered in the guide.
The guide will also not disappoint those who want more than just instructions and steps. There is coverage of electoral laws and explanation of various terms. The guide is educative as much as it is instructive. Further you will also learn what to expect of the institutions that process your forms.
Keep in mind though that this is not a do-it-yourself guide that outlines all the detailed steps including logistical information. 'ABCs of Voting' is essentially a high-level guide that will familiarize the reader with the enrolling and voting process. In order to use the how-to sections of this guide effectively you will also need to use your phone directory to locate the offices mentioned in the guide for various procedures.
The 'ABC of voting' can be purchased in hardcopy form from the Public Affairs Center's Bangalore office for a small fee. The entire guide is also available at: pacindia.org at no charge. PAC's vision is to enhance the quality of governance in India through an active interaction of civil society with the state.