As the primaries draw to a close in the US, it is also time to remember that elections in the world’s largest democracy are also around the corner. I came to read a post from friend Selva’s archives that lists the issues and problems that prevent voters from casting their votes, and then offers solutions. A good read.
And while I appreciate his concern, I find some of his suggestions unworkable. Comments follow.
1. Make people accountable. Yes, it sounds easy to legislate that people should be held accountable for not voting. Standing in the queue at the tahsildar’s office is punishment enough. But consider the amount of administrative work involved. Tahsildar’s offices in India are small and poorly run. They are highly inefficient at whatever they do currently. If they had to cope with this mountain of new work, they would explode. Moreover, how will you ensure that everyone who does not vote comes to the tahsildar’s office to file reasons. In India, we still haven’t found a way to collect income taxes properly. The population that should file tax returns should be much lesser compared to those who are eligible to vote. The amount of paperwork involved in this process would be just too much for anyone to handle.
2. Increase security at polling booths. Increasing security at polling booths and public broadcast of activities in polling stations will only work well in movies. Considering the not-so-honest nature of the law enforcement agencies, increase in security might be considered by the voter as an increase in security for the offenders. It is easy to play with CCTV systems. Keanu Reeves employs this technique to deceive Dennis Hopper in Speed. Again, administrative work is enormous. And who pays to install these systems at polling booths? And that too, once in five years (or a few more times, if you consider state and local elections)
3. Offer free commute. The argumentative Indian will ask, “Won’t the parties use this as a means to lure the voter into voting for them?” And what if people from different parties offer a ride to the same person at the same time. If the parties don’t pay, then who does?
4. Avoiding elections in off-seasons. Though this is a good suggestion, I’m unsure if it will work. Throwing in the weather into an already exploding criteria list will make it unworkable.
5. Postal votes. Offering this on an on-demand, payment-only basis sounds good.
6. Special efforts to include names. Good idea.
7. Use of Internet in voting. It might work in the not-so-distant future, when touch screens become more common and less expensive. Otherwise, fear of technology will put off many voters.
8. Incentives for voting. Good idea, though I would personally recommend disincentivising the non-voters, knowing fully well it has the ability to touch off a civil war!
9, 10, 11. Disincentivizing non-voters. Ah, birds of a feather flock together! Didn’t read this earlier.
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