During first two phases of Uttar Pradesh assembly polls, over 300 voters chose not to vote for any candidate and exercised the “Section 49-o” option available to them under Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961. However, lakhs of others who did not find any contestant “suitable” preferred to skip voting by staying at home. Citizens now want that ‘no-vote’ option must be available on Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) and number of such voters should be counted. During 2009 Lok Sabha (LS) and assembly polls, many exercised the Section 49-o They, however, had to face nightmares at polling booths as officers were completely unaware of this provision.
Environmentalist Anuradha Paul while sharing her problems in choosing Section 49-o wants this option on EVMs itself. “Where is the secrecy if I write my name in the register that I don’t want to vote? The voters ballot should be kept confidential. In case of close contests, citizens using this option may face threats from antisocial elements,” she says.
A city-based employee working with a software firm in Mumbai Kunal Ghumre recalls ordeal of 2009 LS polls when a group of his friends wanted to exercise Section 49-o option. “The polling officials at Laxmi Nagar zone sent us back saying no such rule existed. They laughed at us casting doubts over our information. They advised us to blindly press any button,” he says.