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Form 17 C and Voter Turnout Data

  • Context (TH I IE): The SC is hearing a petition from the NGO ADR asking the ECI to post polling station voter turnout data within 48 hours of each LS election phase.
  • The NGO also highlighted a significant difference between the initial voter turnout figures released by the ECI after polling and the final percentages published later.
  • Civil society members have also urged the ECI to immediately disclose authenticated voter turnout records from each polling station, as detailed in Part I of Form 17C, on its website.

ECI’s Response

  • The initial number is a preliminary estimate, and the higher final figure is simply due to the fact that the ROs send the updated data late.
  • Even the data released so far is not final, and that figure will be known only after postal ballots are counted on the day of counting.
  • It takes time to verify and collate the data, particularly from remote polling stations.
    • This process takes P+1 (polling day plus 1) or P+2 (polling day plus 2) days depending on constituencies and arrival schedule of polling parties due to geographical and weather conditions.
    • This data may further get updated for any constituency where repoll is being conducted (which is normally on P+4 days).
  • ECI claimed that disclosure of Form 17C data could cause ‘confusion in the minds of voters’ since it would also include postal ballot counts.

Form 17 C

  • It is also known as the “Polling Station Wise Result Sheet“, a document prepared by the presiding officer at each polling booth.
  • This information is not available on the Voter Turnout app.
  • Part I of Form 17C contains crucial information-
    1. The identification numbers of the EVMs used in the polling station,
    2. The total number of electors assigned to the polling station,
    3. The total number of voters as entered in the register for voters (Form 17A),
    4. The number of voters who decided not to record their votes after signing the register,
    5. The number of voters who were not allowed to vote,
    6. The total number of test votes and votes recorded per EVM.
  • Part II of the same form contains the results of the counting carried out on the stipulated day.
  • This form is crucial for ensuring transparency in the electoral process.

Legality of Form 17 C

  • As per the 1961 Rules, the ECI has to maintain two forms that have data on the number of electors and the votes polled — Forms 17A and 17C.
    • Form 17 A is used to record the details of every voter who comes into a polling booth and casts his or her vote.
    • Form 17 C is an account of all the votes recorded.
  • Currently, the ECI does not provide public access to Form 17 C, stating that it is meant only for candidates and their agents.

Significance of Form 17C

  • It provides absolute voter turnout data at the booth level, which is a critical measure of transparency.
  • It helps candidates and their agents verify the accuracy of the voting process & count of votes cast.

Need for Public Disclosure of Form 17 C

  • This would increase transparency and trust in the electoral process.
  • It would help verify the reported voter turnout and address any discrepancies between reported numbers and actual counts.
  • Smaller parties and independents struggle to deploy agents at every booth, risking not receiving Form 17C and hindering their vote monitoring.
  • Withholding the absolute number of votes polled from public disclosure could lead to suspicions of data tampering or inaccuracies in voter turnout reporting.
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