Elections to 222 of the 224 assembly seats in Karnataka concluded peacefully on Saturday. The office of the Chief Electoral Officer put the voter turnout in excess of 70 per cent, and possibly higher than the 71 per cent that was registered in the elections of 2013.
“At this stage we are not in position to reveal the overall voting percentage since that can be concluded only after the entire process is completed. It will go above 70 per cent is what we can say,” CEO in Karnataka Sanjeev Kumar said.
Election officials said they expected the voter turnout to be around 73 per cent. The 71 per cent turnout of 2013 had been higher than the 65 per cent of 2008. The Election Commission had reported a turnout of 64.35 per cent until 5 pm. Some of the highest turnouts — around 75 per cent — were reported in the Vokkaliga heartland of Mandya, Hassan, Mysore, Bengaluru Rural and Chikaballapur where the electoral battle is essentially between the ruling Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) of former prime minister H D Deve Gowda.
Urban voters did not turn out in large numbers. The preliminary voting percentage for Bengaluru was estimated at 46 per cent, much less than the 58 per cent of 2013. Polling at one booth in Bengaluru was cancelled and rescheduled for May 14 after the voting machine interface with the VVPAT machine jammed after 62 voters had cast their votes, and the 63rd vote was being cast. “This happened in Lotegolehalli in the Hebbal constituency, where the serial number 9 button was stuck after 63 votes were polled. As soon as the presiding officer realised the malfunction, the voting was stopped,” CEO Kumar said.
He said the malfunction was detected when a voter tried to vote for the Congress candidate who was at serial number 2, and the vote was registered in the name of an Independent with the arrow symbol who was at serial number 9. This was seen on the VVPAT, and the voting was stopped.
The CEO denied allegations by a Congress spokesperson on social media that the votes for Congress were being diverted to the BJP candidate. “This is not true,” he said. In Devagiri village in Haveri region, a 58-year-old woman tried to commit suicide in the election booth by pouring kerosene on herself to protest the lack of development. Election officials stepped in, and convinced her to cast her vote, the CEO said.
A 58-year-old man suffered a heart attack in a polling booth in the Belthangady constituency in Dakshina Kannada district, and died later in hospital. Election officials said 212 ballot units and 340 control units showed problems at the time of testing on Saturday morning. The error rate in VVPAT machines was 1.2 per cent — 698 out of 57,786 — the officials said. VVPATs were used extensively for the first time to enable voters to track their votes.