Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Gujarat's deleted voter complains: State Election Commission helpline didn't work, voter feedback displayed error

By Our Representative
Suspecting wide-scale efforts to “rig” elections to the six municipal corporations, top human rights organization,  a senior activist with the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has asked Gujarat’s State Election Commission (SEC) to announce “re-voting or make special arrangements for voters who are eligible but could not cast their voters due to negligence of the SEC.”
Wanting the SEC to publicly “apologize” for the inconvenience this may cause to voters who will have to take special leave for voting from their routine schedule during working days, PUCL’s Ahmedabad convener Jatin Sheth said in a letter to SEC chairman Varesh Sinha that he, like thousands of others, was victim of the mess created by the election machinery on the polling date, November 22.
Sheth said, he is an “an eligible voter”, and though his name was there in the voters’ list, “someone had put red stamp of 'delete',” and so booth in-charge “rejected” his right to vote. He added, “Since this had happened in thousands of cases across in Ahmedabad, during the election process, the SEC realized the mistake.”
The result was, it “announced through media that, in such cases, voters may be allowed to cast their votes”, Sheth said, though adding, “The announcement through media is not the right thing, at least SEC must be aware of.”
Jatin Sheth
According to Sheth, “I tried to use website of the Gujarat State Election Commission by clicking on http://sec.gujarat.gov.in/Default.aspx for submission of my complaint.”
Pointing out that his experience with the website was “horrible”, Sheth said, there was “no email address anywhere in this website”, there was a helpline number, 1950, but it never responded.”
He added, “All the time, ring was passing but no one responded even at this crucial hour of election process!”
Sheth further said, “When I tried to click on 'search your name in voters' list' to verify my eligibility position online, the opening page displayed ‘Error’!”
And strangely, while searching for other websites to access the information, especially email ID of the SEC, he came across another website of https://ceo.gujarat.gov.in/ContactUs_english.aspx, of the Chief Electoral Officer, Gujarat State, which is operating under the Election Commission of India, has nothing to do with SEC’s working, except for sharing voter list.”
“The worst experience of Digital India and the so-called Gujarat development model”, said Sheth. This came when he tried to submit his feedback/complaint to http://sec.gujarat.gov.in/Default.aspx.
He stated, “The verification code did not accept my feedback/complaint with the display of message that invalid capcha (verification code). I tried several times by taking all necessary care, but invariably it failed.”
Seeking the SEC chairman’s intervention, Sheth said, he hoped “the deprived voters” who do get an “opportunity to cast their votes in this election since it is their right”, adding, “It is a pity that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is speaking about 'Digital India',' Skill India, 'Make in India'' and 'Stand up India' etc. around the globe, but Gujarat’s SEC is not coping up with its constitutional responsibilities.”
Sheth said, the SEC’s main job is to “guard the democracy by ensuring that eligible voters do not lose their right to vote during elections and right to participate in the democratic process of election.”
 Yet, he added, “In spite of Gujarat High Court's severe criticism for SEC's negligence, it seems that the commission has preferred not to listen to the High Court and go in 'My way or highway'." Sending a copy of the letter to the Gujarat High Court, he insisted, it should “to take this complain as suo motu petition and protect the right of deprived voters.”

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