Monthly Meeting

We meet every 3rd Sunday from 11 AM to 1.30 PM at Upper Ashankur Hall , Holy Family Church , Andheri East.
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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Don't waste the franchise, log your 'refusal to vote'

Don't like your options for the forthcoming civic elections? Instead of not voting, register your protest against the lack of clean and credible candidates with your 'refusal to vote'.James John, the Andheri ward coordinator of AGNI (Action for Good Governance for Networking in India) is leading the movement of protest. Since many people do not vote because they believe no candidate is worthy, John and his supporters are trying to spread the message that it is important to ensure that their vote is not misused by others."It's important that electors express their right to vote," John said. "Under Rule 40Q of the Representation of the People's Act, 1969, electors can state that they do not wish to vote. By doing so, they also ensure their vote is not used by bogus voters, who are rampant."The 'refusal to vote' empowers the voter in a different manner. For example, if a candidate wins by 123 votes, but there are also more than 123 refusals to vote in the ward, then there would be a re-poll. But besides the general lack of awareness about the 'refusal to vote' option, another problem keeps voters from exercising this choice. The option is not available on the electronic voting machine. To exercise it, the voter must register the refusal to vote with the presiding officer. John's team is campaigning to ensure that this changes soon, as well. He believes that if more people exercise the option, parties will be forced to field cleaner candidates.But with few voters exercising the 'refusal to vote' option in the last Lok Sabha election, UPS Madan, chief electoral officer, Maharashtra, does not expect much change this time. "I feel electors rarely use the option as it takes away their sense of privacy, because they have to reveal their name to the presiding officer," he said.AGNI convenor Gerson da Cunha supports the campaign but points out that the poll register merely records the voter's refusal to vote, not the cause. "It does not record the protest he or she is making against poor calibre candidates or any other issue," he said.Even so, he believes the option needs to be promoted, "as it protects that vote from being misused".More on p4

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