Right to responsibly refuse to vote - why EC must tell

Demands for EC to issue a public statement about the
procedure for exercising the right to refuse to vote
were made by citizens from Vasant Kunj, Rangpuri
Pahari, Masudpur, Kishangarh, Badarpur, Geeta Colony,
Chirag Enclave, Swasthya Vihar today.
Citizens from Holambi Kalan, Bawana and Yamuna Pushta
have also made the demand at
Citizens from Rangpuri Pahari have also made the one
at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/mpisgmedia/message/85

The translated text of the letter from Rangpuri Pahari
and that of mine is here to clarify that these are NOT
demands for the none-of-the-above option. Indeed, they
capture our disgust about the none-of-the-above demand
when the more expansive refuse-to-vote right exists.
(Possibly because I do not make myself clear in byte
sized bits, the quote in ToI today misses that. And
what I have requested EC to include in EVM is not
none-of-the-above but the refuse option, part of
existing law).

--Translated text of letter from Rangpuri Pahari,

Chief Election Commissioner
Nirvachan Sadan, New Delhi

Sub: For public clarification by EC of procedure for
'refusing to vote'

Respected Sir,
We have come to know that after identification at the
polling booth instead of going to EVM we have the
right to record 'refused to vote' in the register.

Since media reports in February about EC proposal for
'none of these' button and this week about EC remark
about discarding vote by using form 17A did not
mention this option, we seek public clarification of
procedure for this option so that:
* there are no problems between polling officials and
voters and confidentiality is maintained for those
wanting to refuse to vote
* all of those wanting to refuse to vote for various
reasons and save their vote from misuse are not
counted as those wanting to reject all candidates or
discard their vote

We wish to use this option not to vote against anyone
or to discard our vote but to attract the attention of
all to our issues about lawful development, just as we
attempted, in absence of information about this
option, by participating in the municipal election and
campaigning not for the candidate but for the issue.
Since it is not easy for ordinary citizens to campaign
in a short period, we request EC to provide sufficient
public information about this option through
newspapers, radio and television. Thanking you?

---my letter of 07.05.04---

Legal Secretary, Election Commission of India
Nirvachan Sadan, Ashoka Road, New Delhi ?110001

Sub: 'Refuse to vote'
Ref: My letters of 06, 05 and 03.05.04 and
conversations from reception phone yesterday

Dear Mr Wilfred,
In continuation of the above, this is to reiterate the
request for a public statement by EC to clarify
procedure for exercising the option of refusal to vote
under existing law (as suggested in Chapter XX of
Handbook for Presiding Officers on the Commission?s

>From EC proposal earlier this year about 'none of
these' option on EVMs, it is evident EC does perceive
a need for application / modification of ?refuse to
vote? option. It is necessary to explore possibilities
of existing law first, starting with communicating to
public at large that they exist. As mentioned, I
choose to interpret the 'refuse to vote' option as an
'all of these' one and before EC, besides NGOs and
PIL, convert it to 'none of these' or 'discard' I
would like to know why I should either discard my vote
or reject all candidates ? my constituency has, I
understand, 28 and, given the current manner of
information dissemination, I know nothing of any
consequence to me about all but 2 to 4 of them and am
loathe to reject even the others or discard my vote in
some disgust. That would tantamount to saying that I
have no confidence in the capability of my democracy
to throw up candidates I consider capable of
representing me and that I also consider myself
incapable of anything more than disgust. I am not even
remotely inclined to make such a ludicrous statement
through my vote.

While you have clarified the procedure to me, I
consider it necessary for EC to clarify it through a
public statement not only for all but also for me ? to
ensure confidentiality of my vote. At present EC
officials themselves seem unaware / unclear about the
procedure and it may well be that I arrive at my
polling booth to refuse to vote and my Presiding
Officer refuses to let me refuse to vote, in which
case I will either need your cell phone number or to
create a scene, neither of which would be good for
free and fair polling at my booth.

Secretary (AK) told me when I spoke to him from the
reception after speaking with you that a Public Notice
for Pushta is to be issued today or tomorrow. I
request along with this, or perhaps even as part of it
(since, my documentation of the Pushta drive clearly
suggests that numerous Pushta voters are inclined to
refuse to vote), official clarification of procedure
for refusing to vote. I also think EC must use
electronic media in addition to print Public Notice
since many voters, including literate ones, do not
read (at least not small Public Notices). In fact, for
future, I think that on lines of statutory warnings
about smoking, it should be mandatory for all campaign
material above certain expense to carry the message
that electors can also responsibly refuse to vote
under law.

With apologies for prose, which is only to pre-empt
apologies to Reception (where I intend to wait today
for response to my request) for misusing their phones
for long conversations.

Yours sincerely

Gita Dewan Verma / Planner

cc: Secretary (AK)

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