Op-ed

Increasing voter turnout

 

Asad Rizwan

Voter turnout in Pakistan is very low. It is highly criticized, almost half of our public who are registered voters did not utilize their right in previous general elections. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) announced that overall voter turnout in the 2013 general elections was 55.02 percent. It was a record turnout ever yet it is very low. Pakistan stands at 164th in terms of voter turnout among the 169 counties that have had democratic elections over the past 50 years. Having a voter turnout this low is a very bad omen for democracy. As a democratic nation, we have to know about this right and exercise it in the right direction.

There are many reasons why people choose not to vote — they might not feel their beliefs are represented by elected officials in their district, they may think their vote can’t make a difference in the way government is run, or perhaps just don’t support any candidate on a given ballot. Many people have to face the problems like, their name did not come in the voter list where they live so they cannot way to cast their vote. In local areas especially in KPK and FATA women are deprived of their right to vote. Traditionally, tribesmen don’t allow women to use their right to vote, and many other problems people have to face. That’s why turnout remains low.

Institutional factors have a significant impact on voter turnout. Rules and laws are also generally easier to change than attitudes, so much of the work done on how to improve voter turnout looks at these factors. Making voting compulsory has a direct and dramatic effect on turnout. Simply making it easier for candidates to stand through easier nomination rules is believed to increase voting. Ease of voting is a factor in rates of turnout. In the United States and most Latin American nations, voters must go through separate voter registration procedures before they are allowed to vote. This two-step process quite clearly decreases turnout. U.S. states with no, or easier, registration requirements have larger turnouts.

To bring qualified and competent people in power turnout must be increased. Here are some ideas to increase turnout.

First of all, women should not be deprived of their right to vote. It is the right of every citizen to cast vote. If some where women are deprived to cast vote government should take strict action against those who are responsible. polling stations should be at walking distances so that voters needed no transport. It would enable voters to know where their votes were registered. polling station should be safe and there should be friendly environment for public. Government should declare election day a national holiday Almost all political parties had urged the Supreme Court and the ECP to make it possible for overseas Pakistanis to participate in the electoral exercise. So ECP must do reform to enable overseas to cast vote Democracy cannot evolve and flourish unless an overwhelming majority of the people votes.

The only way to strengthen democracy in Pakistan
is to raise voter awareness in order to increase the
quantity of quality of votes casted in next general elections.

 

Furthermore, Voting process should be made as simple and as convenient as possible. Computerizes National Identity Card (CNIC) number could itself become the vote number, inserting the CNIC into an ATM like machine should display the candidates’ names and symbols, voter should place his/her thumb on the appropriate symbol, machine should check the authenticity of the thumb impressions against previously recorded data in the CNIC/mainframe; then it should accept or reject the vote and issue an acknowledgment receipt either way. This is the kind of system that we should develop for 2018 elections.

Education is one of the key priority areas of the government of Pakistan, but to increase the overall literacy rate of the country, it is essential to change the mindset of the communities, especially in this patriarchal society. Not surprisingly, political parties have promised to tackle the high illiteracy rates in Pakistan –the incumbent Pakistan People’s Party has promised to more than double the country’s education budget to 4.5 percent of GDP from 2.2 percent; and to raise the literacy rate to 85 percent. Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party seeks to raise the literacy rate to 80 percent, while Amir Syed Munawar Hassan, the leader of Pakistan’s biggest Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami, has promised 100 percent literacy within five years. These would appear to be overly optimistic targets in a country wracked by endemic political instability, official corruption, power shortages and seemingly endless sectarian violence.