I-card formula successful, Timble plans a step ahead

SANDESH PRABHUDESAI, PANAJI | 11 February 2000 23:10 IST

He is very happy with the positive response received from the Goan voter to produce their documentary identity during the recently held zilla panchayat elections. Prabhakar Timble, the state election commissioner, now plans a step ahead, making it an usual practice.

It was for the first time in the country that carrying some document for the voter at the polling booth was pressed upon. Thanks to the high literacy rate in a tiny coastal state, the SEC could make it successful even by beginning with rural areas.

"The real voter actually carried some or other document to the polling booth, fearing that he may otherwise be not allowed to exercise his franchise. We could also avoid bogus voting to a large extent due to this", says Timble.

It is a fact that the manipulators of bogus voting were frightened of getting exposed if their act of impersonation comes to light. It was visible as no long queues were seen early morning or 30 minutes before the ballot boxes are sealed, which is considered to be the best time for bogus voting.

No doubt voters in Goa were not much responsive to the first ever ZP election held here on Sunday. But the credit of much less voting percentage than usual, from normal 70 to 55 this time, also goes to the 'Timble formula', claims an election official.

Not only electoral card issued by the Election Commission of India, but voter was told to produce any documentary identity, may it be the government servant's I-card, passport, driving licence, PAN card, student I-card, ration card or any document issued by the authorities which could prove the voter's identity, in case of objection.

The presiding officers however did not press for it every time, since the order dated 14 January had made producing the documentary evidence compulsory only in case the voter's identity is challenged by the concerned officers or polling agents. But still, maximum number of voters made it a point to carry their 'identity' along with them.

"Will you let a stranger take such an important decision for you ? Guard against impersonation. Come out openly with your identity". The newspaper advertisement campaign carried out by the SEC was well taken by the Goan voter, without raising any objection.

It could be much more effective if the Panaji Doordarshan had co-operated in showing the three-minute visual clippings for at least five days. Raising objections based on flimsy technical grounds, the local director simply refused to telecast it, except for one day.

But after receiving positive response, Timble now plans to issue an order making it compulsory not to give ballot paper unless the documentary evidence of the voter's identity is produced before the presiding officer. He would however initially throw it open for public debate for a month and then issue the final order.

"We could use it more effectively for municipal elections, probably to be held by May end, as towns and cities witness more floating population whose identity is impersonated at the time of elections", observes Timble.

He is very happy that the ECI has also decided to implement the formula for the Assembly elections in Haryana, to be followed by other states. "I am more happy that the voter is conscious of protecting his identity and not letting anybody misusing it", he quips

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