In a first-of-its-kind initiative, the Election Commission of India (ECI) held a ‘Conference on Low Voter Turnout’ with Municipal Commissioners and District Education Officers (DEO) from select districts to increase voter turnout in the ensuing Lok Sabha Elections.
Ahead of the polling in the ongoing general elections in 2024, the poll body has accelerated efforts to enhance voter turnout in parliamentary constituencies (PCs) with a history of low poll participation in previous general elections.
According to an official release from the ECI, “In a day-long ‘Conference on Low Voter Turnout’ held today at Nirvachan Sadan, New Delhi, Municipal Commissioners from major cities and select District Election Officers (DEOs) from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh deliberated together to chart a path towards enhancing voter engagement and participation in identified urban and rural PCs.”

The conference was chaired by Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar, along with Election Commissioners Gyanesh Kumar and Sukhbir Singh Sandhu.
A booklet on “Voter’s Apathy” was also unveiled by the Chief Election Commissioner on the occasion.

As per the release,” 11 states and union territories, namely Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, the NCT of Delhi, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, Telangana, Gujarat, Punjab, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir, and Jharkhand, had a voter turnout lower than the national average of 67.40 per cent in the 2019 general elections to the Lok Sabha.”
“Out of the total 50 rural PCs across 11 states identified with lower voter turnout than the national average in 2019, 40 PCs are from Uttar Pradesh (22 PCs) and Bihar (18 PCs). In UP, 51-Phulpur PC recorded the lowest turnout of 48.7 per cent, while in Bihar, 29-Nalanda PC recorded the lowest turnout of 48.79 per cent,” it said.
While addressing the Municipal Commissioners and DEOs, CEC Rajiv Kumar said that a total of 266 parliamentary constituencies ( 215 rural and 51 urban) with low voter turnout have been identified and all concerned Municipal Commissioners, DEOs and state CEOs have been called today to find ways to reach out to voters in a targeted manner.
He emphasised a three-pronged strategy of providing facilitation at polling stations, like queue management, shelter parking in congested areas, targeted outreach and communication, and the involvement of critical stakeholders like RWAs, local icons and youth influencers to persuade people to come to polling stations.
CEC Kumar directed them to prepare a booth-wise action plan for enhanced participation and behaviour change.

He asked all MCs and DEOs to prepare different strategies for urban and rural areas and plan interventions accordingly for different target audiences. He emphasised that the “one size fits all” approach will not yield results.
CEC Kumar also urged the authorities to act in a manner that instills pride among the voters in participating in the democratic festivities. He called for a movement in which people are self-motivated to vote.
The conference, a collaborative effort between the ECI and key stakeholders, focused on crafting a comprehensive action plan to address voter apathy, streamline logistical operations, and increase voter turnout.
Discussions were centred on critical issues such as optimising queue management at polling stations, facilitating voting in high-rise buildings, and leveraging the influential Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) programme.
With a keen emphasis on partnership and inclusivity, the ECI urged municipal commissioners and DEOs to actively contribute to the initiative.
Urban-specific hurdles to increased voter turnout were identified and targeted City-specific interventions were planned and the officers were encouraged to develop tailored, region-specific outreach programmes that resonated with the unique needs and demographics of their constituencies.
In line with this vision, the ECI outlined an array of innovative voter awareness campaigns under SVEEP, including rolling out public transport and sanitation vehicles adorned with essential election messages and incorporating voter awareness messages into utility bills for widespread dissemination.
It also includes collaborating with Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs), raising voter awareness through forums, and hosting informative sessions at popular public spaces such as parks, markets, and malls, among others.
The conference was attended by Municipal Commissioners of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Pune, Thane, Nagpur, Patna Sahib, Lucknow and Kanpur, as well as select District Election Officers of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
CEO Bihar, CEO Uttar Pradesh, CEO Maharashtra and CEO Delhi also attended the conference, with CEOs of 7 states, namely Karnataka, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Punjab, joining virtually.
In response to these challenges, the ECI has implemented a suite of initiatives aimed at reinvigorating voter engagement and participation, including devising a Turnout Implementation Plan (TIP) for targeted interventions at polling stations.
It included crafting district-specific themes for polling stations catering to diverse demographic groups and collaborating with key stakeholders to expand voter outreach and awareness
efforts, formalising electoral literacy in the education system through strategic partnerships and engaging National Icons to connect with and inspire young voters among others. (ANI)