Ballot papers in Hyderabad polls give new experience to young voters

By Mohammed Shafeeq
Hyderabad, Dec 1 : Paper ballots, used in the municipal elections held in Greater Hyderabad on Tuesday, refreshed the old memories of many citizens while it was a new experience for the young generation.

It was no longer just press of a button on Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) as was the case in the elections over the last two decades. Each voter had to collect the ballot paper from the polling officer, mark opposite the symbol of the party or candidate he is voting for and drop the paper in ballot box.

Though the process was not as swift as it used to be with EVMs, it did provide some curiosity to young voters who had only pressed buttons so far to exercise their franchise. It also brought back the old memories for middle-aged voters and senior citizens.

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The process involved different stages. After verification of the voter by the first polling officer at the polling booth, indelible ink is applied on the left forefinger of the voter by the second officer.

The third polling officer takes signature or thumb impression of the voter on the counter foil of the ballot paper before issuing a folded ballot to him. The polling officer also gives to voter a rubber stamp. The voter then goes to polling compartment, mark vote on ballot paper, refold and come out to drop in the ballot box kept in front of the presiding officer and return the stamp to the police officer concerned.

“This is the first time I cast my vote using ballot paper. It was a different experience as in the previous elections for Assembly and Parliament I had to just press a button (on EVM),” Mohammed Fasihuddin, who cast his vote in Karwan division, told IANS.

The 33-year-old, who runs a kirana shop in Meraj colony, was among the early voters.

“I had only heard about ballot paper but had never seen it. It was a new experience marking stamp opposite the name of the party candidate and symbol and then folding the paper and dropping it in ballot box,” said Sudheer Reddy, a student who exercised his right in Ameerpet division.

The 22-year-old had first cast his vote in 2018 Assembly elections and again in 2019 Lok Sabha elections and on both occasions, EVMs were used.

For senior citizens like Ishtiaq Ahmed, ballot papers brought back old memories. “For decades, we used the ballot papers to exercise franchise. It was nice to see the old practice once again. However, unlike in EVM where you just press a button, here you have to stamp properly at right place so that your vote does not become invalid,” said the 70-year-old who polled his vote in Sheikhpet division.

It was after a gap of 18 years that the paper ballots were used for the municipal elections conducted by the Telangana State Election Commission.

Voters in all 149 wards of Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) cast their votes on Tuesday, using paper ballots.

Polling in one ward (Old Malakpet) had to be stopped due to discrepancy in ballot paper. Election symbol of the CPI-M was printed against the candidate of the CPI. Interestingly, the CPI-M had not fielded any candidate in the ward.

State Election Commission (SEC) announced that re-polling in all 69 polling stations in the ward will be held on December 3.

Paper ballots in municipal elections in Hyderabad were last used in 2002 when the municipal body was known as Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad (MCH) and it had 100 wards.

The GHMC was formed in 2007 with the merger of surrounding municipalities and gram panchayats with the MCH.

The elections to GHMC in 2009 and 2016 were held with Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) but without voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPATs) attached to them.

The SEC had conducted elections to 120 municipalities, 10 municipal corporations and over 12,000 gram panchayats early this year with ballot papers due to non-availability of VVPAT machines.

The SEC decided to use ballot papers in GHMC polls due to various factors including COVID-19 pandemic and complaints about functioning of EVMs.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-generated from IANS service.

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