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Sessions on ethical voting

Tura, April 7: The state election commission has taken up a unique initiative to educate young voters in Meghalaya by holding interactive sessions on ethical voting.

Two such sessions were held today with students of ICFAI University and North Eastern Hill University (Nehu), Tura campus, by the West Garo Hills district administration in collaboration with the state election department.

The students were asked questions on the criteria they look at before voting — credentials of the candidate, the party manifesto and the local issues.

At ICFAI, about 120 students and the faculty took part in the session and expressed their views and expectation from the Lok Sabha election. They spoke about their opinion of the electoral process in the country and responded to queries. Many said they were willing to vote if candidates come clear on the policies for youth welfare and job opportunities. Some wanted to understand the concept of NOTA or “none of the above” option, which has been introduced by the Election Commission this election.

The students at ICFAI and Nehu were told that the NOTA button on the electronic voting machines (EVM) does not mean that all candidates in a constituency stand rejected or defeated if the number of NOTA votes exceeds that garnered by the highest vote-getter. It is just an option to register a negative opinion. Thus, if there are 99 NOTA votes out of 100 and candidate X gets just one vote, X is a winner, having obtained the only valid vote. The rest will be treated as invalid or no votes.

NOTA may not affect election results. The option would ensure secrecy of the voter wanting to make a choice that amounts to abstention and also to ensure that nobody casts a bogus vote in his place, the students were told.

The young voters were also urged not to get influenced by anybody, even their parents. “Voting is your right and you should exercise it with your wisdom and responsibility,” the session conductor said.

The youngsters at both Nehu and ICFAI took the pledge to vote in a responsible manner and curb practices like accepting bribe, money, gifts, alcohol and dinner sponsored by candidates or parties.

In the 2009 Lok Sabha election, only 64 per cent of the electorate had voted in Meghalaya.

“This time we hope music will do magic and the awareness on ethical voting will yield results,” returning officer Pravin Bakshi of Tura parliamentary seat said.

A music video titled Just One by the famed choir group, Shillong Chamber Choir, is being broadcast in institutions, the roadside and the rural areas to woo voters.

Bakshi said the video was part of voters’ education and electoral participation. “The production is aimed at making young voters feel that voting is a cool thing,” he added.

Youths comprise about 40 per cent of the total electorate in Meghalaya.