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Fact-check: Did over 16 lakh voters cast their votes after 5 PM in second phase of the Gujarat elections

Spike in voting after 5 PM is seen because manually updating voter turnout data takes time, and it does not mean any abnormality

A claim is being circulated on social media saying that over 16 lakh voters were reported to have cast their votes in the second phase of the Gujarat Assembly elections after 5 PM. The messages being circulated with the intention to create an impression that abnormal voting took place after the closing of voting hours at the recently concluded assembly elections.

A Congress supporter on Twitter who goes by the handle @achalshah06 published it on December 7. “1600000+ voted after 5 pm in Gujarat election’s phase 2,” tweeted Shah, asking if it is an ‘abnormal figure’.

Source: Twitter

A left supporter who goes by the handle @tnwatch1 published an image containing text suggesting the same.

When checked, several reports pointed out similar information. On December 10, The Hindu reported that the revised data from the Election Commission of India suggested that the voter turnout in the second phase of the election jumped by almost 6.5 per cent. It further added that around 16 lakh people voted after the deadline of 5 PM. The earlier data indicated that the turnout was 58.8 per cent for 93 constituencies. However, the revised data indicated that it was 65.3 per cent. The initial figures for the first phase were 60.11 per cent, and the revised data indicated 63.14 per cent of voters cast their votes. The Hindu did not explain any reason why it could have happened.

On December 12, the matter was raised by Congress leader Pawan Khera. In a statement to the media, he said that the jump was “unusually high”. Congress claimed that it takes around 60 seconds for a voter to cast his or her vote. However, if calculated, the revised data suggested that the voters completed the process in around 25-30 seconds which is “humanly impossible”, said the Congress leader.

Nothing abnormal as claimed

While it seems abnormal at the first glance, there is nothing unusual in student jump in the voting figures. This jump after the closing of voting takes place due to delays in the process of uploading the turnout numbers from each polling booth during an election.

Notably, amidst the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Election Commission of India launched an application named Voter Turnout. As per its description on the ECI website, before the launch of the app, the media and general public used to get information about voter turnout only after the end of the day. However, since its launch, voter turnout data has been available multiple times a day.

However, it takes around one hour to collect the information and upload the data in the application. Furthermore, one has to understand that voting machines are not connected to any network. One of the security measures of the EVMs is that they don’t have the capability to connect to a network, they are completely standalone machines, which makes it impossible to access them remotely.

That means real-time data updates are not possible. The EC description of the process reads, “The mechanism involves simple entry of approximate cumulative percentage turnout through the web portal during the currency of the poll. These entries are to be done without fail in a designated time slot by the Returning Officer /Assistant Returning Officers.” The data is entered as per time slots.

To collect the turnout data, the polling officer from each polling booth sends the number of votes that have taken place by that time to the returning officer via text messages or other such means. The returning officer compiles the data and uploads it to the portal. As there are a large number of polling booths in every constituency, it takes time to manually upload the data at every designated interval.

That means, even after one hour of the vote that has been cast, there is no way to get the exact number. The revised data of the voter turnout gets submitted at around 7 PM. By 5 PM, the updated data on the app is one hour old.

Furthermore, even though the voting for the day ends at 5 PM, those who are already in the queue till 5 PM are allowed to vote. This means actual voting keeps taking place even after 5 pm.

Keeping all these points in mind, it is understandable the data that gets published at 7 PM is the data of the votes polled between 4 PM to the last voting standing who joined the queue before 5 PM. In that case, and by the Congress’s admission itself that it took 25-30 seconds to cast a vote, the time gets increased to 60 to 65 seconds approx, which is humanly possible. The explanation was also provided by Divya Bharati and its screenshot was shared by Achal.

Therefore, the insinuation that 16 lakh people voted after 5 PM is misleading. As the data collection takes time, voter turnout information is not in real-time.

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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