Why voters' list in India's IT capital a 'comedy of errors'?

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Bangalore, Feb 5: Violation of election norms is a routine affair in remote rural parts where muscle power of party cadres dominates. But the way the voters' list in one of India's technologically developed states has found to be flouting all rules, one wonders how the world's biggest democracy survives if basic issues making up its foundation are so pathetically managed, even in this age of advanced technology.

According to an article published in bangalore.citizenmatters.in, the chief electoral officer revealed a new set of voters' list last month and downloading the lists using a software programme and extracting data from them was disabled by converting the files into image files. However, a software firm managed to manually download the files and extract the voter records data for 27 constituencies in Bangalore, considered the country's Silicon Valley, and it was shocking to see how norms were flouted at will in those electoral data.

Voters List in India

Data model violation

According to the article, the Instruction Manual for Standardization of Electoral Roll Database (Version 1.0) published by the Election Commission (EC) of India three years ago lays down conventions on database schema and naming. The voter lists of Karnataka were nowhere near to abiding by the law.

ID card number

The Electoral Registration Officers' handbook says the number of EPIC, which is a key part of the voting procedure, is prepared in a way that it acts as a permanent unique identity for each elector and thus is very important. But in reality, it was found that about 11,000 EPIC numbers were duplicated. While the same number has been awarded to more than one person, the same data have been repeated with another serial number or in another file. Moreover, while nearly 23,000 IDs were arbitrarily numbered without actually complying with the set standard, over 90,000 EPIC number fields were found to be blank!

House number

The guidelines say no house number should be more than 10 characters, but it was found that over 66,000 house numbers were longer than the prescribed limit. Over 1,600 records did not have any house number at all while nearly numbers of 53,000 house were written as ‘.', ‘-'. Nearly 40,000 houses had more than 10 voters ach, while 112 houses had more than 100 voters each. One house alone had 452 voters while another had 347 voters! Nearly 9,00,000 houses had a single voter each.

Name of voters and relatives

The EC asks not to use prefixes like Dr, Prof., but very few cared. Nearly 2,000 voters were described as ‘Late'. Aliases of names had been used in several places while 1,431 records did not have voter names at all. While 157 names were one-character long, over 5,600 records did not have relative's name or were one-character long. The spellings of the names were also not consistent in several places.

Relation types

A close observation of the data showed that more than 13,000 voters had more than one wife. Over 10,000 cases showed the age difference between parent and child to be less than 13 years. Nearly 1,900 husbands were shown as female and the name of the voters and relatives were found to be same in 1,482 cases.

Age

As per the EC, the age of voting is between 18 and 120. The data showed more than 500 voters aged below 18, including 39 voters who are zero-year old. Ninety-six voters were found to be above 120 while 17 people were over 200-year-old! If this was shocking, then try this: Voter having EPIC# XUL4087888 was shown to be 4,818-year-old.

Sex

A sample survey showed some records where the males and females were interchanged. One person was even shown male and female at two serials, namely, STZ0267013 and STZ3778412, the article said.

Voters' address

Again, there was no consistent pattern followed. The same name was spelt differently at different places.
If we can not make use of technology to prepare error-free electoral data while sitting at the country's IT capital, then there is no point in accusing some of the backward states, saying they can not manage fair elections.

The Chief Election Commissioner said last year that the EC would stress clean electoral roll and hassle-free registration and would make use of technology, but yet things are so pathetically lagging behind after so many months. Too much information is being managed manually and without any care. There is no dearth in technology-based and professional firms in Bangalore to ensure a better electoral data but is anybody willing to take a call?

Our democracy is still managed manually. Who will change it if we don't?

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