Stating that the number of voters in India is increasing, Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi on Saturday said a compulsory voting regime is not feasible to improve it further. “India is one of the few countries where in reality, the voter turnout is increasing. Compulsory voting system can help increase the number of voters but the system is not feasible in India owing to its population,” Zaidi said in an interview with Facebook’s Public Policy Director Ankhi Das on Saturday. “Model of compulsory voting is successful in small countries. They can manage it as the number of electorate is very small but bringing that system is not feasible in a hugely populated country like ours,” he said.
He emphasized that the Election Commission cannot force people. “Constitutionally, people have the right to vote or not to vote,” he said. Noting that in the 2014 elections, of the 850 million people, 550 million had participated, he said that if there is a mandate to vote, “we will have to proceed against 300 million people”. “The cost of administrative compliance subjecting 30 crore people to action is not feasible. As an alternative to mandatory voting, voter education is the right method,” Zaidi explained.
He said that there was a problem of a lower voter turn out in the country a few years ago and thus the ECI had to introduce the programme named Systematic Voter Education Electoral Participation (SVEEP) Programme. “The important contributed factor to the increased voter turn out in the nation has been SVEEP. It is a household name under which we focus on voter registration as well as voter participation,” he said.
“Under this programme, we undertake surveys that contain the knowledge of voters’ attitude. Then we design specific measures categorised by those survey parameters.” “This programme goes down to the level of polling stations where we identify stations with the lowest number of registrations, the areas with less women participation etc. These aspects are taken into account to take specific initiatives,” he said.
Zaidi also touched upon the issue of urban apathy. He suggested people’s mundane interests as the reason behind it. “People in urban areas are more interested in mundane things. They only talk about the things that go wrong in the system. Young people in urban areas have attitude problems. They unnecessarily feel that nothing will change.”