Text your polling booth to find out how long the queue is

Long lines at booths in Chandigarh on April 10. archive Long lines at booths in Chandigarh on April 10. archive

On April 10, when Chandigarh recorded its highest ever turnout of over 74 per cent, over 40,000 voters could actually check the length of the queue at their polling station before stepping out to vote.

The ‘Queue Monitoring System’, an initiative of the local election authorities, has received a thumbs-up from the Election Commission of India, which now wants it replicated widely. Voters sent their voter card number, prefixed by the letters “BTH” (for ‘booth’), as a text message to a previously publicised number and, within minutes, got an SMS informing them of the number of people waiting to vote at their booth at that time. The same information could be accessed over the Internet at a designated web site.

“We trained our Booth Level Officers to update the length of the queue on the National Informatics Centre server every 15 minutes. The 519 BLOs, one for each polling station, sent an SMS to the system, putting down the number of people in queue at that time,” Chandigarh deputy commissioner and Additional Chief Electoral Officer & Returning Officer Mohammed Shayin told The Indian Express.

The BLOs started updating the data at 6.30 am on polling day, a good half hour before voting began, and sent updates every 15 minutes until the poll closed in the evening.

“The response was very encouraging. Over 28,000 voters sent SMSes to check the length of the queue at their booths. And the web page got over 12,400 hits,” Shayin said. Enquiries peaked around 11.30 am, the officer said, when over 800 people messaged.

Chandigarh had witnessed a voter turnout of 64 per cent in the 2009 general elections.