The Election Commission (EC) has the right idea in reaching out to the youth over Facebook to register as voters—what better way to implore the youth to perform their civic duty than an appeal on social media? The number of 18-19-year-olds, as per The Times of India (ToI), registered as voters is shockingly low—just 40% of the population in that age bracket. This leaves some 3.36 crore unregistered. Against this, there are over 1.8 crore Facebook users in India, and an IAMAI report from 2016 found that users of college-going age make for a third of all social media users in the country. Thus, appealing to unregistered voters on
Facebook seems a good outreach path. The Facebook page would direct eligibles to the National Voters’ Search Portal, where they can fill in the online application. The registration numbers would make it seem that millenials of voting age in India seem indifferent to their right and duty as a voter and citizen, but the case may have been historically so.
The outgoing chief election commissioner, Nasim Zaidi, cited in the ToI report, says that five-six years ago, “the registered youth as percentage of eligible youth used to be 10%”. There is a large difference between the number of registered electors in 18-19 age group and the overall population in the bracket group in states electorally-important states like UP (74 lakh) and Bihar (45 lakh). The recent Brexit referendum experience should illustrate the dangers of voter apathy.
In the UK, the youth did not participate in the numbers that were expected in the referendum, but were quick to complain of the result—given many experts have said it portends ill for the country, youth participation could have helped avert this outcome. This should show how important it is to ensure that individuals register as voters as soon as they reach voting age—a democracy can’t function if a majority of those of voting age are disinterested. While this is certainly not the usual voter enrolment exercise, the hope should be that the FB gambit works.