An integral part of a functioning democracy is the right to vote. In fact, the only time most citizens participate in their democracy is through their right to vote. When this right is taken away, the people that are most negatively affected are the most vulnerable population of society, especially the women and the minorities.
Karnataka is the eighth largest state in India with a population of approximately 67 million. Many of its minorities are eligible to vote but are unregistered. The names of about 18 lakh (1.8 million) Muslim voters were found to be missing from the recently updated voters' list or they didn't have voter ID cards issued in their name for the Karnataka Assembly election 2018, according to a research of CRDDP and USIPI. Khalid Saifullah of CRDDP said that they arrived at their findings after comparing the 2011 census data with the voters' list that was published on Feb. 28, 2018.
Extensive Outreach Efforts Bring Results
As a result of the extensive outreach efforts by USIPI Chief Scholar Dr. Abusaleh Shariff and CRDDP, the electoral commission of Karnataka agreed to allow voter registration deadline extended until April 14, 2018. This will give at least a large portion of those who were unregistered a right to vote and participate in their democracy.
In an even more unprecedented move, the Election Commission in Karnataka has also decided to have a special drive on April 8, 2018. All polling stations will be opened specifically to register voters, polling stations which are normally only open on voting days. This has never happened before in the history of India. In essence, if every newly registered voter shows up to vote in the upcoming elections, it could change who is elected.
District Development Project Update
As part of the District Development Project, US India Policy Institute (USIPI) has chosen four verticals for improving outcomes in the field -Education, Health, Citizenship and Economic Wellbeing. Through the efforts of USIPI and its partner institute, CRDDP thousands of poor families are forming Self Help Groups (SHG) to improve their wellbeing.
USIPI started work in Karnataka and Maharashtra last year and hopes to expand to others states. On the issue of citizenship and exclusion in voter registrations, USIPI plans to perform a sampling in other states in India and publish a position paper soon.