Voter turnout: What data says about India’s reluctant electors

Voter turnout: What data says about India’s reluctant electors

As 94 Lok Sabha seats go to polls on Tuesday in the third phase of the ongoing elections, voter turnout will again be under scrutiny. The election season has had a disappointing start, with overall turnout in the first two phases lower than it was in 2019. This trend has sparked concerns over whether Indian voters are less inclined to cast their ballots amid the scorching summer heat.

According to the Election Commission of India, the turnout in the first two phases was 66.14% and 66.71%, respectively, lower than the 69.4% and 69.2% recorded in the same seats in the 2019 polls. But can we say this is a reflection of waning enthusiasm among electors?

Data shows that over the past two decades, India’s voter turnout has steadily improved, rising from 58.1% in the 2004 general elections to an all-time high of 67.4% in 2019. Most recently, the turnout was dismally low during the 2004 and 2009 polls, dropping below 60%.

While voter turnout has improved progressively, India’s participation rate remains relatively low when compared to the largest developed and developing nations that are part of the G20 bloc. An analysis of the latest elections in 16 G20 countries shows that India ranks ninth among them in terms of voter turnout, as per data from the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA). The US, Germany, Brazil, and Argentina recorded participation rates above 70%, while Australia, Turkey, and Indonesia have surpassed 80% turnout in their most recent polls.

Globally, India ranks 69th out of 182 countries. Among neighbours, Sri Lanka (75.9%) had a higher voter turnout than India in its most recent election, while the others were lower than India.

Some political experts have cited increasing voter apathy as a contributing factor to the low turnout witnessed during this election season.

Figures from assembly elections indicate low turnout in states with the largest share of parliamentary constituency seats. Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Gujarat witnessed voter turnouts of 60.7%, 61.1%, and 64.3%, respectively, in their latest assembly elections.

While India has seen a more than five-fold increase in the number of electors since 1952 to over 910 million in 2019, nearly one-third of registered voters stayed away from voting in the last Lok Sabha polls. In absolute terms, the number of registered electors who skipped voting was a massive 297 million in 2019, close to the record of 2009.

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