Several voters were piqued when they realised that the ballot paper they were handed to cast their vote at Sunday’s zilla panchayat elections, contained a printed serial number that corresponded to the number on its counterfoil.
Voters are generally asked to sign on the counterfoil, whose serial number is then written against their names in the photo electoral roll.
Byelections to the Calangute and Corlim ZP seats in North Goa and the Curtorim and Nuvem ZP seats in South Goa saw low turnouts, with many choosing not to vote because of the apparent lack of secrecy in the process.
“We expected the State Election Commission (SEC) to rectify this issue after it was highlighted during the panchayat elections in June this year. But, apparently, nothing has been done,” said a citizen who had voted for a Calangute ZP candidate.
Many voters have questioned the need for a serial number on the ballot paper, a document which they believe should be free of all markings except the voter’s stamp.
“The back of each ballot paper is stamped by the SEC, thereby confirming its authenticity. So, if that is taken care of, why is there still a serial number on the front…one that matches the counterfoil from which it was torn?” asked another voter.
The voter further said that if the ballots, counterfoils and photo electoral rolls fell into the wrong hands, it would be all too easy to tell who voted for whom.
Polling officers, however, assured distrusting voters that the counterfoils, photo electoral rolls and ballot boxes are safeguarded in strongrooms and are therefore out of the reach of any truant elements.
“Candidates place their agents right in the thick of the polling and the counting process.
During the election process an agent can easily note down the serial number of the ballot.
So, is it really impossible for any such agent to get hold of the sensitive voting material?
Goa is not a large state like Maharashtra, where one is unlikely to see the elected representative for years after the election. In Goa, if an elected representative learns that you’ve voted against him, he is most likely to harass you for the rest of his term,” an irate voter at a polling booth in the Calangute ZP jurisdiction said.
When contacted, state election commissioner R K Srivastava said that as per procedure, each ballot paper’s serial number is announced and noted by the polling staff.
“This is not a violation. The counterfoil of a ballot paper does not go public and is sealed. Otherwise, the identity of voters will be disclosed,” he said.