ELECTIONS. You may be thinking, “Is it that time already AGAIN? What is the point? It doesn’t matter who’s in control … my life doesn’t change based on who’s in Lok Sabha.”  

But it does matter. A lot. India’s 2019 polls are the world’s largest election.

“Somewhere inside of all of us is the power to change the world.” – Roald Dahl

Voting in a democracy keeps elected officials accountable as it puts ultimate authority into the hands of the citizens. It also ensures that politicians focus on the issues most important for the people – the threat of being voted out of office helps keep them focused on advocating for their constituents’ needs. Voting is also a direct way to question the government’s policy stances.

Your vote matters

India’s young people make up more than one-third of its population – and with 45million more eligible voters this year – the votes of millennials and centennials will play an important role in the results.

In states that have added the most new voters, analysis has shown that parties can increase their chances of winning seats in Lok Sabha by focusing on the youth population. Voter turnout amongst 18–25-year-olds in 2014 was 2% higher than the national average and youth voters were responsible for BJP’s (Bharatiya Janata Party) win in the five states with the highest proportion of young voters.

Because of this shift in demographics, unemployment and other issues that affect young people are at the forefront of this year’s political debates.

What’s at stake?

“One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” – Plato

With joblessness on the rise, the highest unemployment rate since the 1970s, and nearly one-third of youth not working or in school, several key issues are expected to have an impact on voter behaviour: the slowdown in economic growth, unemployment, inflation and rural migration are all major concerns for citizens.

Many are comparing the parties’ plans to determine how they will encourage skill development, provide higher education opportunities and stimulate the job market.

Farmers continue to be a key constituency with approximately 50% of the population working in agriculture. Despite aid and handouts, the industry is still struggling with the ramifications of policies that kept food prices low for the masses and successive droughts and crop damages.

Concern for national security has also risen. Even before the recent retaliatory air strikes in February, more than 75% of Indians surveyed considered Pakistan a serious threat.   

It’s important to understand what each of the parties’ stances are on these major issues – as well as other concerns that directly impact you – so you can make a well-informed decision at the polls.

What you need to know

Elections are already underway across the country. If your state hasn’t voted yet, here’s some tips on how to prepare and what to expect:

  • Verify that you are registered to vote and find your polling station.
    • Log into electoralsearch.in
    • Call the Voter Helpline – your STD code + 1950
    • SMS the Voter Helpline with your Voter ID (EPIC – Electors Photo Identity Card) number – ECI
  • Confirm the voting time in your state – it varies from region to region – voting should start at 7am, but some stations close as early as 4pm.
  • Take ID proof with you to vote.
    • EPIC card – if you have been issued one, EC says you must produce it. If not, you can show your:
    • Aadhar card
    • PAN card
    • Passport
    • Driving license
    • Service identity card
    • Bank/post office passbooks with photograph
    • RGI / NPR smart card
    • MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee) job card
    • Ministry of Labour health insurance smart card
    • Pension document with photograph
    • MP/MLA/MLC official identity cards
  • Don’t take your phone, camera, or any other gadgets into the polling booth.
  • When you arrive:
    • The polling official will check your ID and name against the electoral roll.
    • A second official will ink your finger, give you a slip, and take your signature on a register.
    • You will then deposit the slip with a third official, show your inked finger, and go into the polling booth.
    • In the polling booth, record your vote by pressing the ballot button opposite the symbol of the candidate on the machine – you should hear a beep.
    • Check the candidate’s serial no., name, and symbol on the slip that appears in the transparent window of the machine – it will be visible for 7 seconds before dropping into the sealed box.

-by Micah Branaman Sharma

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