Bangalore refuses to turn up and vote

[This post used data from the website of the Chief Electoral Officer of Karnataka, which was subsequently revised the next day. As per the revised numbers, Bangalore urban showed a turnout of 57.4%, a full 7.5 percentage points greater than the 2008 assembly elections. This improvement cannot be disregarded as trivial, thus the argument made by the original post is no longer valid.]

In the face of high expectations, the residents of Bangalore yet again failed to turn up and vote in large numbers in yesterday’s assembly elections. With 52.8% of the Bangalore Urban district’s voters casting their vote yesterday, it was only a marginal improvement over 2008 – when 46.9% of the district’s voters had turned up. This is but a marginal increase of 5.9 percentage points, which can perhaps be explained away to a great extent by the simple fact that the elections took place on a Sunday.

Voter Turnout 2013 Karnataka Assembly Elections

The capital city’s voter turnout was well below the state average of 70.2 percent. Curiously, the maximum turnout was seen in the adjoining Bangalore Rural district – at 77.95 percent. The only other districts with their polling numbers in 50s and early 60s percentages were Bidar, Gulbarga, Yadgir, Bijapur and Raichur – something that could be because of the high summer temperatures there.

The map was created using Gramener’s excellent map tool. Polling data was obtained from the Karnataka Election Commission website courtesy of Citizen Matters.

Update. As my fellow blogger Karthik pointed out, the previous assembly elections in Bangalore took place on a Saturday. Therefore, the weekend explanation for a greater turnout could be invalid. Also – while Bangalore as a whole shows a low turnout, it is certainly possible that individual constituencies showed much higher turnouts. It will be interesting to watch the numbers for constituencies with candidates endorsed by BPAC and those with strong Loksatta campaigns and see how well they fared.

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5 Responses to Bangalore refuses to turn up and vote

  1. vishnu May 6, 2013 at 4:06 PM #

    Could it also be that there are huge errors in the voting list in Bangalore?

    I’ve heard stories of people who have voted for the past 3 decades not finding their names on the list. Also, I’ve heard of an entire residential building finding that their names were not on the list despite registering for this very election.

    According to Janagraha, 60% of the voting list has errors. I don’t have any numbers to back this up, but such a large gap between the average turnout for the entire state and Bangalore city can be explained by a faulty denominator. Too many bogus voters, dead voters, and erroneous voters. Admittedly it’s all anecdotal, but the number of anecdotes I’ve heard leads me to suspect that the problem is extremely widespread.

    It’s hard for me to believe that the people of Bangalore are extraordinarily apathetic when compared to the rest of the state (70% turnout), or other metropolitian cities like Chennai (65%+ turnout).

    • Pavan Srinath May 6, 2013 at 7:21 PM #

      Thanks Vishnu.

      You’re right – there are huge problems with the voter rolls, and the Ramanathans’ argument that the ECI systems were meant for villages and cannot handle dynamic urban populations are quite persuasive.

      Having said that, it would be useful to quantify the problem and ask if the voter roll problems can account for the entirety of the low voter turnout. And as you say, if Chennai has a higher turnout – then how are the same problems playing out there? is there a special problem with voter rolls in Bangalore alone? My hypothesis is apathy remains a significant contributor to low voter turnouts, above and beyond bad voter lists.

  2. zenrainman May 13, 2013 at 8:10 PM #

    How about declaring an election invalid if there be less than say 66 % vote? Will push all political parties to clean up the rolls and get out the vote .

    • Pavan Srinath May 13, 2013 at 8:24 PM #

      I’m hesitant to support actions that lead to repeated elections – negative voting, right to recall, and failure to meet minimum turnout. I think we spend enough time in election cycles in the country and spend enough money on it, and don’t think that governance outcomes will necessarily improve if invalidity conditions are thrown in and repeats of elections happen.

  3. Geetali May 17, 2013 at 2:53 PM #

    I only have anecdotal evidence, but at least a dozen people from among my family/friends could not locate their names on the electoral rolls. An equal no. applied for the voter card, but were made to run around in circles. Half of them gave up mid-way, the other half is still waiting to get the ID cards! (They are hopeful of doing so before the General Elections).