New Delhi: From postal ballots to QR code-enabled voter slips, the polling for the Delhi assembly elections Saturday had many firsts to its credit.
Delhi became the first state to experiment with postal ballots, so that voting more convenient for those with severe disabilities or above the age of 80 years.
Ameerullah Siddiqui, a voter from Okhla constituency, who has an orthopaedic impairment, said the ballot paper was sent to him about seven days in advance by the returning officer. He cast his vote and sent it back the same day.
“Many people are unable to vote as they are unable to leave their homes owing to physical or age-related difficulties. In many cases, they do not have a wheelchair at their disposal, or someone to help them. This initiative (postal ballot) was primarily meant for such people, particularly the aged,” Siddiqui, a polling official at Jamia Milia Islamia, said.
“Of the 3,400 voters who had opted for postal ballots, 2,917 cast their vote using the facility,” Ranbir Singh, chief electoral officer (CEO) of Delhi, said. “The voting percentage of such voters is 92.9%,” Singh said.
Despite the efforts of the electoral officers to promote the initiative, a few senior citizens and persons with disability (PwD) who came to the booths said they were unaware of the facility and that they did not receive any help in reaching the polling booths.
Mahipal Singh Negi (40), a visually impaired voter of Bawana constituency, said he has no idea about such an initiative. “Moreover, I find it easier to come to the booth rather than filling an application,” he said.
Vimla Devi (80), on the other hand, said she was aware of postal ballots, but she preferred the festive environment mood on polling day. “I also do not trust voting from home as I am not certain that it will remain secret,” Devi, who has voted in every election for the past 50 years, said.
Speaking about the benefit of postal ballots, disability rights activist Satendra Singh said “such an initiative is comfortable for those with severe disabilities, but it should not become an excuse for people to not come go out and vote.”
Apart from postal ballots, the election office also had arranged 11 voting booths managed entirely by PwDs.
This election was also the first one in which QR code-enabled voter slips were experimented with at the 11 constituencies of Sultanpur Majra, Seelampur, Ballimaran, Bijwasan, Trilokpuri, Shakur Basti, New Delhi, Rohtas Nagar, Chhatarpur, Rajouri Garden and Jangpura.
At Ballimaran, officials said scanners helped them quickly verify voters. “With these scanners, we did not have to go through a list and check the details of voters. It’s time-saving and transparent,” Sumit, a polling volunteer at a booth at Turkman Gate, said.
There were some other constituencies though, where the QR code-enabled voter slips slowed down the voting process. “This was a pilot project. We will have to internally analyse the issues and iron them out,” Singh said. “However, in 90% of cases, voting took place smoothly,” he said.