Increased voter turnout bodes well for democracy and Goa is showing the way to the rest of the country. Voter turnout at the just-concluded Assembly polls in the State crossed 80 per cent for the second consecutive time and this figure seems to be the norm.
The sudden surge of voter turnout from 70.51 per cent in 2007 to 81.73 per cent in 2012 has plateaued at 82.23 per cent this time owing to various factors.
Political commentator Adv Cleofato Almeida Coutinho says the changing voter trend is due to the cleansing of voter rolls by the Election Commission. Speaking to The Goan, he said, “In 2012, the Election Commission began the process of actively cleansing the voter rolls, deleting the names of deceased electors and updating the rolls regularly. This has ensured highly accurate voter rolls resulting in what only appears to be a surge in turnout.”
The electorate stood at 10.10 lakh in 2007, steadily rose to 10.26 lakh in 2012 and 11.10 lakh in 2017.
Coutinho opined that several other factors have also contributed to the increase in voting percentage in Goa. “Presence of a wider variety of options on the EVMs has resulted in drawing of larger crowd,” he pointed out referring to the number of contestants and fronts in the fray this time.
On Saturday, 251 candidates were listed on the EVMs across the state, which is among the highest number of contestants Goa has seen so far.
Besides, this election saw new entrant, Aam Aadmi Party. Then there was a split between RSS and BJP resulting in formation of Goa Suraksha Manch, its alliance with the former BJP ally Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party and regional fronts. Goa Forward Party and United Goans Party formed by prominent by Vijai Sardessai and Atanasio ‘Babush’ Monserrate are some of the new factions. All these new parties activated dormant vote banks. These offered a more nuanced rhetoric for the targeted sections and various pockets of the electorate to cast their ballot.
The Election Commission also played a very crucial role through its voter awareness initiatives which resulted in 60,000 of the 80,000 more voters listed in 2017 exercising their franchise.
Interestingly, of these 80,000, around 33,354 were first-time voters, as per EC records. Several initiatives such as pink teddy bears and pens as gifts to first-time voters spread smiles among the younger voters.
Various analysts have also accounted the high turnout among young voters to the heightened awareness through online social platforms.