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Meghalaya galvanises into election mode
To vote or not, choice is yours

Shillong, Jan. 24: Your vote counts, whether you vote or you don’t. This is democracy.

India’s election rules allow electors to decide not only to vote, but also allow the citizen to decide not to vote, although the right to reject is still at the debatable stage.

Section 49-O of the Conduct of Election Rules states: “If an elector, after his electoral roll number has been duly entered in the register of voters in Form 17A and has put his signature or thumb impression thereon as required under sub-rule (1) of rule 49L, decides not to record his vote, a remark to this effect shall be made against the said entry in Form 17-A by the presiding officer and the signature or thumb impression of the elector shall be obtained against such remark.”

On the eve of National Voters’ Day, several individuals today met chief electoral officer Prashant Naik to apprise him of the need to highlight the right of voters to exercise the option of not choosing any candidate and have this registered as a valid vote based on the above section.

“This in itself is a valid vote and has to be counted. The voters do not need to go to the EVM and cannot be forced to press any of the buttons there after filling in the register,” anti-graft activist Angela Rangad, who was one of the activists who met Naik, said.

Given that heavy expenditure is being entailed on voters’ rights, Rangad said it was constitutionally mandatory to give out this crucial information so that voters might freely exercise their democratic right while voting.

The state election machinery has been going all out to woo citizens to enrol themselves in the electoral roll across Meghalaya.

Till January 5, there were 14,90,015 voters spread across 2,485 polling stations under 60 delimited constituencies.

Meghalaya will elect the new policy makers on February 23 while the counting of votes will take place on February 28. A new government is expected to assume office by the first week of March.

Rangad also called upon all the citizens, especially aggrieved students, teachers, unemployed, old and young, to exercise this right and provision.

The group also demanded that the election machinery make public, under Section 4 of the RTI Act, all election-related expenditure over the past five years, including on publicity for voter education.

For the 2013 polls, Meghalaya is expected to spend around Rs 15 crore.

In the last Assembly elections in 2008, not a single voter in all the 60 constituencies opted not to record votes under Section 49-O.