Key issues included a lack of awareness about the necessary IDs and home-voting options, voter deletion, and the absence of wheelchairs.
Voters in Hyderabad faced various challenges as they stepped out to exercise their franchise in the Assembly elections on 30 November.
The key issues included a lack of awareness about the necessary identification documents, difficulties in carrying mobile phones, instances of voter deletion, the absence of wheelchairs for differently-abled individuals, and a general lack of knowledge about home-voting options.
Additionally, the staff on duty in polling stations in some instances experienced dizziness due to suffocating conditions on the premises.
Around 9 am on Thursday, when South First was interacting with people at the Gautham Model School polling station, 29-year-old IT professional M Vaishnavi found herself in a predicament as she attempted to comply with the identification requirements.
“I am waiting for my family member to get my identity card. I have not carried any physical copy, but downloaded my card from the electoral website, complete with a serial number and polling booth details,” she explained.
Vaishnavi assumed she could use her mobile phone to display the downloaded identity card, only to discover that it was not allowed. “So, I’m waiting for my family member to bring me my Voter ID or Aadhaar physical copy,” she said.
Meanwhile, at the Maredpally Government Polytechnic College for Women polling station, aspiring film director C Akhil said: “I have been waiting at the centre because my father insisted on a family outing. Although they have finished voting, I am still here as I’ve requested one of the officers to come and verify my identity card, which is in document format.”
He added: “I will wait for him, and if nothing works out, I’ll make the 6-km journey back home to fetch my Aadhaar card and Voter ID to cast my vote. All the facilities seem good, but these identity-card issues are causing a bit of a delay.”
The home-voting facility announced by the Election Commission of India (ECI) had its flaws on the ground in Hyderabad.
the wheelchairs that were mandatory in polling stations were also not found in several, while some centres brought them quite late.
Bhaskar Raja, a 73-year-old voter at the Gautham Model School polling station, said, “Though unaware of the home-voting process, we were determined to exercise our right to vote. We walked around searching for the details to cast our vote.”
Meanwhile, his wife, with shivering hands, lamented, “Who will bother to create awareness about such developments? If we had known, we would have voted at home.”
Hyderabad District Election Officer (DEO) and GHMC Commissioner Ronald Rose, in conversation with South First, acknowledged that there had been complaints regarding home-voting for the elderly and the differently-abled.
He stated, “We are aware of the issues and will strive to address them in the next elections.”
He added: “The deadline for home voting applications was 8 November, and we accommodated 838 requests in the Hyderabad district. Our responsibility included creating maps to reach the homes of these voters and facilitate their voting. We anticipate improvements for the next election cycle.”
Rameja D and Suresh D, a couple from Begumpet, expressed their frustration while searching for voting details on the main road.
Rameja D explained, “We are residents of Begumpet and have been voting for years. But we are in search of Suresh’s details this year. Even though it is mentioned that deleted names are indicated, my husband’s name is nowhere to be found. We’ve been searching for two hours in nearby wards.”
P Raju of the Ishaq Colony under the Secunderabad Cantonment (Cantt) Assembly constituency, was showing his ID card to reporters outside the polling booth.
He was saying, “My and my son’s names have been deleted. We came to the polling booths in the hope that we would get some more details.”
South First‘s visit to over 10 polling stations revealed that many voters had not adhered to guidelines: Many had failed to check their voter details.
In a last-minute rush, some arrived with only Voter IDs, while others presented both Voter IDs and Aadhaar documents.
At one polling station, a member of the GHMC staff urgently approached the section officer responsible for recording the percentage of votes every hour. The staff member said, “One of our team members is feeling dizzy. Do we have a health official?” The section officer, gesturing towards a nearby nurse, called for assistance.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, GHMC officers informed South First, “This is a common issue among staff who have been sitting for hours since 6.40 am in crowded rooms. Despite the provision of breakfast, the cramped conditions are leading to suffocation and a feeling of dullness among the staff.”
Rohith K, a BTech first-year student at the Keshav Memorial Institute of Technology, was a first-time voter. He said, “I feel very happy after casting my vote.”
However, he also highlighted an issue that the poll panel could heed when reaching out to first-time voters across the country.
He said: “I, as a young voter, would say that it would be good if awareness was created on how we could get a message regarding the polling station and the serial number from the ECI.”