In a bid to address voter apathy in urban areas, the Election Commission (EC) is set to write to all Union and state government departments, central and state PSUs, and private companies with over 500 employees to monitor how many employees avail special casual leave on polling day but don’t vote.
The EC, through its local district election officers, will ask government departments, PSUs and private companies to appoint nodal officers who will keep tabs on employees who skip voting. “We would then urge the employer to send employees who skipped voting for special voter awareness workshops organised by the EC. The aim is to tackle voter apathy, especially in urban areas,” said a senior EC official who did not want to be identified.
“It’s unfortunate if people are availing leave but not casting their vote. No one would like to get named for not voting. We hope the act of being identified and sent for a workshop after being found to have skipped voting will discourage apathy,” the official added.
According to Section 135B of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, every registered voter employed in any business, trade, industrial undertaking or any other establishment and entitled to vote in a Parliament or Assembly election has to be granted a paid holiday for the purpose. The state and central governments always notify polling day as a paid holiday within the meaning of Section 25 of Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881.
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According to EC data, voter apathy is acute in urban areas despite high awareness about voting rights. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, 67.40% of the registered voters cast their vote. Constituencies like(Assam), Bishnupur (West Bengal) and recorded the highest turnout with 90.66%, 87.34% and 87.03 %, respectively. In contrast, urban seats such as Srinagar (14.43%), Anantnag (8.98%), Hyderabad (44.84%), (45.80%) recorded lower turnout.
“Additionally, we have also directed all district election officers/ returning officers to identify at least five lowest voter turnout booths in each Assembly constituency. They will visit these booths to identify factors for low voting turnout and make targeted interventions to mitigate the factors hampering the voting process,” said the official.