In the present era, participation in elections has been considered as most important symbol and foundational concept of democracy. If people are allowed and facilitated to participate in the political process, only then a political system can be described as democratic, and for participation voting right has been considered the most effective way to participate in the governance of the nation. When citizens collectively elect their representatives, it affirms the notion that they govern themselves by free choice. The notion behind the election of representatives is that citizen has the right to participate in the governance of the country and they exercise it through the representatives. Therefore, it can be opined that participation is a foundational virtue of democracy.
For the participation of the citizens in the political process, the Constitution of India guarantees universal adult suffrage for all citizens. Universal adult suffrage means that citizens of India above the age of 18 have the right to vote irrespective of their background. The addition of newly eligible voters is done through a special process of Summary revision. The Election Commission of India conducts Special Summary Revision to enroll unenrolled eligible citizens during the month of Oct-Nov every year. This year the Special Summary Revision of electoral rolls with January 01, 2024, as the qualifying date, has started from 01.11.2023.
The summary revision process provides various other opportunities to the voters through the mechanism of prescribed Forms. Each one of these forms has its significance and use. All individuals 18 years of age or above as of January 1, 2024, can get their names enrolled in the electoral rolls by filing 'Form-6' used for registration of new electors. In this regard, any citizen who is going to attain an age of 18 years plus on the qualifying date can contact his Booth level officer and get himself enrolled as a voter.Similarly,'Form-7' can be used for objections to proposed inclusion and deletion of names in the existing electoral roll, 'Form-8' can be used for correction of any particulars in the roll, shifting of residence within or outside constituency, replacement of electoral photo identity card (EPIC), and marking of person with disability. 'Form 6B' can be used for capturing the Aadhaar number of the existing electors.
The special aspect of the revision this time is that all those citizens who will attain the age of eligibility on the remaining three qualifying dates i.e., April 1, July 1, and October 1, 2024, can also submit their advance claims, in the prescribed forms. The claims and objections can be filled both online as well as offline. For online filing of claims and objections, one can log on to the Voter’s Service Portal (voterseci.gov.in) or download the voter helpline app (VHA), and for offline mode, the concerned BLO/AERO/ERO can also be contacted.
The timeline for publication of the integrated draft electoral roll was October 17, 2023, while the timeline period for filing claims and objections is from October 27, 2023, to December 9,2023. There are special campaign dates on November 4, 5, 18, and 19, 2023. Further, the timeline for the disposal of claims and objections is December 26, 2023, while the timeline for the final publication of the electoral roll after checking its health parameters is January 5, 2024. Participation of all stakeholders is essential in the revision exercise to ensure that the maximum number of eligible voters are enrolled in the electoral rolls.
Experiences from, 12- Wagoora-Kreeri Assembly Constituency
As an Assistant Electoral Registration Officer of the 12-WagooraKreeri Assembly constituency for the year 2020–2023, the mission wasmaking additions of newly eligible voters and securing the participation of youth in local government elections. This was realised by reaching out to all 98 polling stationsand conducting a special summary revision process of electoral rolls by conducting door-to-door surveys. Several in-person village-level meetings and the spreading of awareness among people, especially the younger generation, regarding the importance of their votes and their voting rights,domake a difference.All these efforts proved to be successful in increasing more than 10% of the voter base, and the voter count in the recently carved out 12-wagoora kreeri assembly constituency reached 70,000 plus. This also led to an 80% voter turnout in the constituency in the lastthree-tier elections of local self-government, which was a 20% rise from the previous elections. From all the discussions and experiences on the electoral processes, it can beconclusively said that the best way to make youth participate in the governance process is by facilitating their participation in the electoral processes.
(The author is a JKAS officer presently posted as Tehsildar Kreeri Baramulla and has been awarded the Best AERO Award by the Chief Electoral Officer J&K in the National Voter Awareness Contest-2022. Feedback: email@example.com)