Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Booth capturing

I thought booth capturing was a international phenomenon in almost all democracies but was shocked to read the wikipedia article that says it is mainly prevalent in India.
Booth capturing is a type of election fraud ,found primarily in India, in which party loyalists "capture" a polling booth and vote in place of legitimate voters to ensure that their candidate wins. Though it is a kind of Voter suppression, unlike other forms of voting fraud, booth-capturing is a malpractice witnessed mainly in India and the least subtle of all.

The modus operandi of such booth capturing operations was facilitated by poor communication, long distances, and inadequate policing. By the 90s it had become a common and unsightly occurrence wherever elections were held. Sometimes two rival party thugs would descend on the same polling station, resulting in violent clashes with injuries and even deaths on both sides.

In 1989 the Representation of the People Act, 1951 was modified to include booth capturing as an offence punishable by law and countermanding or adjourning any poll that was booth captured. The development of the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) was also intended to make it harder for booth captures to stuff the ballot boxes with their votes by enabling a 5 minute delay between each vote entered as against hundreds of votes in the same time using ballot papers (stamped by a group of 3-4). The EVMs also possess a "close" button which can be used by the polling officer to deactivate the machines. Despite this, booth capturing continues to happen, albeit at a much reduced rate and many candidates who lose elections in India regularly complain that their opponents indulged in booth capturing to win.

Other types of election malpractices are:
  • Gerrymandering
  • Intimidation by-
  1. Violence or threat of violence
  2. Attacks on Polling station
  3. Legal Threats
  4. Economic Threats
  • Vote Buying
  • Misinformation
  • Physical Tampering
  • Social Engineering