EC releases phase 1, 2 voter turnout data; Opposition questions delay, format

The first phase of the General Elections had 66.14 per cent of voters turn out

By Kedar Nadella  Published on  2 May 2024 3:00 AM GMT
EC releases phase 1, 2 voter turnout data; Opposition questions delay, format

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Hyderabad: The data released by the Election Commission on Tuesday on the final voter turnout for the first two phases of the Lok Sabha 2024 elections has raised questions from the Opposition leaders and has begun debates on social media.

Many have criticised the EC for the delay in publishing the data and for making changes to the format such as publishing only the percentages instead of the absolute figures and being ‘substantially different’ from the initial figures on the voting day.

As per the data released on Tuesday, the first phase of the General Elections had 66.14 per cent of voters turn out in 102 Parliamentary Constituencies (PCs). In the second phase, 66.71 per cent of voters turned out at 88 PCs. There has been a small drop in voter turnout compared to the phase 1 and phase 2 polls of the 2019 General Elections.

Voting for the general elections is being held in seven phases, the remaining are on May 7, May 13, May 20, May 25 and June 1. Counting of votes will be taken up on June 4.

Changes from initial figures

Another issue raised, regarding the latest figures in voter turnout, is that it is marginally higher than the initial figures released by the ECI on the polling day.

Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Derek O’Brien on X said, “Important. Four days after phase two ends, Election Commission releases final voting figures. A bump up (jump in turnout) of 5.75 per cent from what EC released 4 days ago. (sic)”

“Is this normal? What am I missing here?” he asked.

‘Unusual and worrying’

Replying to a post on X comparing the EC data on the voter turnout in Lok Sabha 2019 elections and the newly released data, Yogendra Yadav, the national convenor of Bharat Jodo Abhiyan, said that ‘while a difference of 3 to 5 % points between initial (polling day evening) and final turnout figures was not abnormal… What is unusual and worrying this time is a) delay of 11 days (for phase 1 and 4 days for phase 2) in publishing the final figures, and b) non-disclosure of the actual number of electorate and votes polled for each constituency and its segments. Percentages do not help in electoral audit.”

“Yes, this information is recorded in Form 17 for each booth and is available with the candidates agent, but ECI alone can and must give the aggregate data to eliminate any possibility of fudging or discrepancy between voted polled and votes counted. The @ECISVEEP owes an explanation for this inordinate delay and the sudden change in reporting format,” his post said.

Changes to format

Why has the Election Commission changed the format of its data? Many wanted to know why the data is not in total numbers and instead is only limited to percentages, which are insufficient to give a full picture of the voting patterns and so on.

Click here for the latest ECI data on the first two phases of the Lok Sabha 2024 elections. Click here for the ECI data on the first phase of general elections in the 2019 elections. Columns with vital data on total voters, contesting candidates and number of polling booths are missing from the latest ECI data sets.

Yechury alleged that apprehensions of manipulation of results continue as total voter numbers can be altered during counting. A total number of voters in each constituency was always available on the ECI website till 2014 and the commission must be transparent and put out this data, he said.

While releasing the voter turnout data, the EC said that the final turnout would only be available post-counting with the counting of postal ballots and its addition to the total vote count. Postal ballots include postal ballots given to service voters, absentee voters (persons above the age of 85 years, PwD, essential services etc.) and voters on election duty.

“I’m talking of absolute number of registered voters in each constituency not the number of polled votes which will be known only after postal ballots are counted. Why is the total number of voters in each constituency not being put out? ECI must answer,” Yechury added.

Delay in publishing data

The EC was also criticised for the ‘delay’ in releasing the data. The first and second phases of polling were held on April 19 and April 26. The EC released the data 11 days after the first phase and four days after phase 2 of the Lok Sabha polls.

The Congress, CPI(M) and the TMC have been criticising the Election Commission over the delay in publishing the final voter turnout figures for the first two phases of the Lok Sabha polls.

“Finally, ECI (Election Commission of India) has put out the final voter turnout figures for the first two phases which are substantially, not marginally as is normal, higher than the initial figures,” Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said on X.

“But why are the absolute numbers of voters in each parliamentary constituency not put out? Percentages are meaningless unless this figure is known,” he said.

Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said it is essential for the ECI to be timely and transparent about all election-related data, and it should come out with the figures and make them public.

In a post on X, he pointed that the number of registered voters per Lok Sabha and the Assembly constituency and breakup of the number of votes have not been published along with the turnout data by the ECI. “The whole point of releasing such data is to make it comparable over time. The ECI’s failure to release voter turnout data in the same format frustrates the very purpose of it all. One can only hope that political games are not being played through such data,” he added.

Inputs from PTI

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