New Delhi, Sep 21 (IANS) Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) V.S. Sampath Friday expressed unhappiness that nearly 40 percent voters had not taken part in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls.
The CEC was speaking at consultations with civil society organisations on "Inclusive voting and electoral participation" here. He said that voter turnout in the country hovers around 55 to 60 percent.
The CEC said that voter turnout was 56 percent in 2004 Lok Sabha elections and increased to to 59.7 percent in the 2009 polls. There were 714 million eligible voters in the last general elections, he said.
"This means 281 million eligible voters in the country did not exercise their voting rights. This is not a happy situation... so the challenge is how to make people speak through the ballot box," Sampath said.
The CEC said the commission had made interventions to improve turnout, and voter participation had increased in the assembly polls held after the last assembly polls.
"We have put in place a massive programme called Systematic Voter Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) that has brought in targeted interventions involving a range of government and non-government partners, also including the media," Sampath said.
Sampath said that the commission would celebrate national voters day to encourage greater participation.
Geographical limitations, illiteracy, lack of awareness, economic conditions and gender were all factors that adversely affected the numbers of people voting, the chief election commissioner said.
Sampath said the poll panel has launched an intiative to identify missing voters and non-votes to bring them in the mainstream of voting.
"Like the Electornic Voting Machine or EVM, some friends remind me of the need for a second EVM, an Enlightened Voters Movement, which could improve the quality of participation not only at the level of the ordinary voter but also in our representative bodies," Sampath said.
Sampath underlined the need to educate voters on the process of registering and voting, developing a sense of civic duty to participate in electoral process, and learning to respect the outcome of legitimate elections.
"Voters must be convinced that voting will make a difference to their present condition and they must have confidence in the integrity of electoral process," he said.
The two-day event is the first formal consultation by the poll panel with civil society groups from across the country.
The consultation has been orgnaised by SVEEP in association with UNDP.
Around 40 civil society organisations are taking part in the consultation which aims to come up with recommendations on bridging the gender gap, fighting urban apathy, overcoming youth disconnect, inclusion of marginalised and weaker sections and ethical voting and electoral services support by non-government organisations.
Indo-Asian News Service