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In the 2014 Indian elections, there were 24 million youth who were voting for the first time. In 2019, roughly about two-thirds of the population is under 35. With this age demographic, young voters have become extremely important in Indian elections. States with the highest population of young voters have to attempt to garner their support by focusing on issues like skill development, higher education opportunities and job availability. While political parties attempt to cater to their youngest voters, a new survey by Inshorts reveals that Indian youth remain sceptical of the legitimacy and value of the voting process.

India’s youth understand the importance of voting

The survey involved 200,000 Indians from the age of 18 to 35 years in March 2019. Most of the people surveyed came from urban regions such as Delhi National Capital, Mumbai, Bengaluru Pune, Hyderabad and Chennai.Inshorts posed questions related to the voting process and the importance of casting one’s votes. Out of all the respondents, the survey results showed that an overwhelming 85% of youth think that voting should be compulsory. Three-quarters of voters also stated that they do extensive research on a candidate before casting their vote.

These statistics suggest that Indian youth today recognise the importance of voting and want to exercise their rights as citizens of a democratic country. This could be due to the fact that there has been a general increase in political awareness over the last few years. Youth, especially, are able to engage with political issues through mediums such as social media and online forums. This would hold true for the respondents of the survey who mostly live in areas with internet access.

These statistics suggest that Indian youth today recognise
the importance of voting and want to exercise their rights as citizens of a democratic country.

“Gone are the days when casting votes was considered a burden, the overwhelming response of the survey throws light on how the perceptions about elections have changed,” Azhar Iqbal, CEO of Inshorts, said in a press release on March 28. “Nowadays, people are aware about their rights and consider casting votes a responsibility as citizens.”

Why India’s youth may not be voting

However, understanding the importance of voting does not lead to confidence in the actual voting system. According to the survey, at least a quarter of millennials are sceptical about the authenticity of the electronic voting machine (EVM). Since 2003, EMVs have completely replaced paper ballots in all by-elections and state elections. Despite the fact that there have been several Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) installed in certain polling stations, there is still doubt that the EVM fairly and accurately reflect election results.

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Doubt about the efficiency of the EVMs may be one of the reasons why many young voters do not plan to go back to their states to vote this election. As high as 45% of young Indian voters indicated that they would not be travelling home to vote, which is a significant portion of voters overall considering the size of the India youth population. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, there was a record-high of 63.8% of voter turnout. Nevertheless, it also exposed the issue of lost votes. About 90% of Indian voters in 2014 stated that despite the desire to vote, they were unable to return home to do so due to various reasons. Five years later, young voters are facing this same issue. Amongst the reasons cited for not being able to return home was the fact that many voters were working or studying abroad or out of town.

According to the survey, at least a quarter of millennials are skeptical about the authenticity of the electronic voting machine (EVM).

This issue is especially pressing in Delhi/NCR, where more than half of the respondents living in those areas indicated that they were not going to be home to vote during the 2019 elections. This is an indication of how big the problem of ‘lost votes’ really is. “Due to the lack of digital medium of voting in the election, a lot of voters also miss out on exercising their voting rights since many live in other cities for job, business and education and have to skip voting because of travel constraints,” Inshorts said.

This means that despite the overwhelming consensus that voting is important, many young voters are constrained by pragmatic factors that bar them from casting their votes. As Inshorts stated, one of the ways that this could have been solved was through the introduction of a digital system that allowed Indian youth to vote away from their hometowns. Since many young voters are already adept at using the internet, a digital voting system might be more convenient and effective in getting the youth population to vote.

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With young voters making up such a huge proportion of voters in India, the issue of ‘lost votes’ is one that needs to be resolved urgently. Furthermore, Indian youth need to be able to exercise their right to vote without having to make impractical sacrifices. The fact that the percentage of youth who think that voting should be made compulsory is so high proves that Indian youth would certainly vote if they could. Whether in this election or the next, voting processes might need to be altered so that India’s youth can vote in full capacity.

References

  1. Scroll
  2. QuartzIndia
  3. National Herald India

Featured image source: Youth Ki Awaaz

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