WITH THE civic polls round the corner, political parties are worried about the lack of awareness among voters regarding the new four-ward system that is being introduced this time. Parties have pointed out that unaware voters are likely to take more than a minute and this would in turn affect the over-all voting percentage of the civic elections. In response to the issue of ‘additional’ time that a voter will take raised by these political parties, PMC election officer Satish Kulkarni said, “A learned voter would hardly take a around a minute to cast his vote while an unaware voter is likely to take longer. The voting will start at 7.30 am and the exercise will go on till 5.30 pm. We don’t expect any problem during the polling day as we would allow all those who report by 5.30 pm to exercise their right.”
There has been much confusion over the four-ward electoral panel system in the PMC, which was decided by the state government. The PMC, on the basis of a mock poll, conducted ahead of the civic polls, stated that approximately 750 voters are likely to exercise their franchise per booth. However, parties pointed out that a maximum of 600 voters will be able to exercise their right at a booth and that too, if the minimum time of one minute per voter is taken into account. The state election commission has been running an extensive campaign for 100 per cent voter turnout for the PMC elections, said Alka Joshi of Socialist Party, who is contesting for three seats from electoral panel number 14.
“However, the election commission has itself defeated its own objective,” she said, adding, a Returning Officer in a meeting of candidates has informed that the average time for each voter to cast votes would be around one-and-a-quarter of a minute. “This means maximum voting of 450-500 is possible in each booth which would be 60-75 per cent of voter strength. Thus, the 100 per cent turnout campaign is meaningless,” Joshi said, adding the election commission is ill equipped to increase the voter turnout.
“We demand the election commission to immediately increase the number of voting booths and ensure that no more than 400 voters are listed at each booth,” she added. Civic election officers said they could not undertake the awareness programme for polling in four ward electoral panel system as there were a lot issues that needed to be cleared before finalising it. “Now, the situation is clear with the final number of candidates with us and machinery available too. We would work hard to reach out to maximum voters,” he said.