HYDERABAD: Why were names of thousands of voters missing from the Telangana’s electoral rolls? This is a question many voters are asking after they were not able to vote in Telangana’s first elections on Friday. Names were found missing at many places, including Hyderabad, Adilabad, Wanaparthy, Nizamabad and Kamareddy.
Experts point to a combination of factors, from technology-related issues to voters not bothering to check whether their names existed in the electoral rolls and possible errors by officers who completed the door-to-door verification.
Data Security Researcher Srinivas Kodali said, “Telangana’s elections have been affected by the Aadhaar and EPIC card-seeding in 2015. Election Commission’s non-consensual access of citizen’s Aadhaar data without carrying out field verification has resulted in lakhs of voters being disfranchised. The project continued till the Supreme Court’s order on privacy shut it down.”
He added that Hyderabad was part of a pilot project on Aadhaar and EPIC card-seeding. “If there were any demographic differences between EPIC and Aadhaar details, including changes in address, age and spelling errors in names, those voters may have been deleted. Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) said that they have nothing to do with it and that it is a concern of the Election Commission.”
He claimed that the commission’s deduplication algorithm doesn’t work. “The law does not mandate that ERONet used. No election act allows the use of the portal. The commission should probe whether there was targeted deletion of votes. In Kukatpally 1.08 lakh votes were deleted. In Serlingampally, 60,835 votes were removed and in Jubilee Hills 50,960 voters were deleted.”
Election authorities claim that all votes are deleted after following due process, and there is no issue with the algorithm. For purifying the rolls, the software throws up duplicate names and booth level officers conduct field verification before deleting the name.
“The burden of getting enrolled and checking the rolls also lies with citizens. Why didn’t they check the rolls two months earlier when electors were added?” an officer asked. “We made an all-out effort to enrol voters. Booth-level officers were on road all the time. There were some issues with the ERONet software but these were rectified during implementation. There were no suo-motu deletions.”
Congress claims 6.3 lakh names were deleted from 24 constituencies of Greater Hyderabad on the ground that these were duplicate, ineligible, dead, shifted or voters who were not available at the time of verification.
Congress leader Marri Shashidar Reddy, who filed a PIL in Hyderabad high court alleges, “There is no proper field verification by BLOs. If they claim that they followed due process, I challenge it. If it is so why would members of the same family be registered as voters in different booths and different constituencies?”
He alleges the Aadhaar and EPIC linked was done without issuing notices. “Because of the premature dissolution of assembly, the four months needed for revision, were reduced to four weeks. It is humanly not possible to rectify mistakes in a short period. In 2014, there were 2.82 crore voters, and September 2018 draft roll there were 2.62 crore voters indicating that 20 lakh votes were deleted. In the final rolls, there were again 2.82 crore voters. The new additions are mostly new young voters.”