CHENNAI: Over nine lakh first-time voters will be exercising their franchise during the ensuing Lok Sabha elections, in Tamil Nadu. This is around 1.55 per cent of 5.92 crore-strong electorate. In this social media age, where almost every teenager has a smartphone, the first-time voters’ mood may have an impact on their families too. The Election Commission has been implementing many a measure to bring this chunk of youth to the electoral arena.
In this connection, Chief Electoral Officer Satyabrata Sahoo told Express, “During the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the number of first-time voters stood at 12,00,724 and went up to 18,24,163 during the 2016
Assembly elections. Now, as per the final electoral rolls prepared with January 1, 2019 as qualifying date, the number stands at 8,98,759. This number is likely to go up as around seven lakh voters have applied for inclusion into the voters list recently in a special camp held ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.”
Asked about the reasons for the reduction in the number of first-time voters this time, the CEO said, “It always fluctuates and depends on how the youth take interest in enrolling themselves.”
On the efforts being made by the Election Commission to bring in the youth as voters, the CEO said, “Catch them young has been the EC’s motto. As many as 36,488 literacy clubs have been set up in schools, colleges and in rural areas to create awareness about the importance of exercising the franchise. Besides, 3,314 campus ambassadors are functioning in colleges to create awareness about the need to enrol themselves.”
The CEO further said,”These types of awareness programmes among school students are aimed at sensitising the youth on their electoral rights and familiarising them with the electoral process. In a nutshell, this will make the school students ‘Empowered (Prospective) Voters’ so that when they enter college, they would enrol themselves.”
In the handbook for ELCs, a comprehensive list of subjects relating to voters are covered. They include categories of voters (general voters, NRI voters and service voters); who is eligible to become a voter, whether a non-citizen of India becomes a voter; whether a NR Indian settled abroad becomes a voter; documents required to be enclosed along with the application, what if the age proof is not available to show that a person is eligible to become a voter, how a homeless person can enrol as a voter, the procedures to correct the errors in the photo identity cards issued by the ECI, how to get a new photo identity card, how the election machinery is working etc., are answered in lucid style.