TOWARDS the end, before the EVM machines were to be sealed, officials at the state Chief Electoral Office at Altinho, a hilly neighbourhood in the state capital, heaved a collective sigh of relief. Still collecting field reports from the state’s 40 constituencies that went to the polls on Saturday, till late night the officials had one eye on the numbers: to break a 2011 record of 83.62-per cent provisional polling held by Puducherry.
By 5 pm, the numbers had started pouring in. Goa had crossed 83 per cent. This is without counting the 831 voters contacted through Electronically Transferable Postal Ballots that will be accounted for by March 11. Another booth of 800 voters is expected to go for re-poll.
For Goa, this is a big high. The figures for the 2012 state elections were 83.67 per cent for North Goa and 79 per cent for South Goa. Overall, minus the ballot votes, the figure was a little above 81 per cent.
Officials in the electoral office gave credit to programmes they undertook before the polls – and also said that social media helped raise voter awareness. There was even a walkathon last week to raise awareness of poll day— the last event before the state went to vote.
Paying his gratitude to the effort shown by both the voters and the election personnel, both on polling duty and security for the “most peaceful election” in the state, Kunal, Goa’s Chief Electoral Officer, said the state election page on Facebook received “34,600 likes”. That is a huge number in a state where constituency averages stand at 20,000 and margins of victory as low as 600 at times. “It’s more than 3 per cent of Goan voters. Our Facebook Live events gets 1 lakh views and hits – that’s 10 per cent of Goa’s voter count,” Kunal said.
An election official said 8,000 voters’ data was corrected and updated, and their locations mapped. “A lot of our figures were dead data. Many people had moved locations, many had left for abroad, and many had not even updated or registered,” the official added.
Real-time monitoring, started from a by-election in 2011, threw up several trends. In 2012, 25.2 per cent votes were polled between 7 am and 9 am, and the turnout was less than 4 per cent after 3 pm. This year, the first hour didn’t see much crowd at the booths but the buzz picked up between 11 am and 1 pm.
In South Goa, many constituencies, where mining-dependent families live, also saw a huge improvement in turnout from the last election.
Political parties also took credit for the turnout. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, spoken of as the chief minister if the BJP succeeds again, told the media that BJP members, including him, called every voter at least four times. The Aam Aadmi Party, which expects a share of votes in South Goa, also took credit for the increased numbers, saying that their volunteers and members engaged with voters. At the Congress office, their election managers were busy calling all the candidates to get out and get people to the booths.
“The booth attended by differently abled persons, saw a 85 per cent voter turnout, much higher than the average state and district average of the past,” Kunal said.