"Pattern In Creating False Narratives": Poll Body Amid Voter Turnout Data Row

Lok Sabha elections 2024: In a statement, the Election Commission (EC) said it has "noted a pattern of false narratives and mischievous design to vitiate the electoral process"

Lok Sabha polls 2024: Election Commission has released absolute number of voters

New Delhi:

The Election Commission (EC) today released the absolute number of voters for all the completed phases - six of the seven phases - of the Lok Sabha elections 2024. In a statement, the EC also said it has "noted a pattern of false narratives and mischievous design to vitiate the electoral process."

The EC statement came a day after the Supreme Court adjourned - till after the Lok Sabha election - petitions seeking release of voter turnout data, including votes polled and/or rejected, within 48 hours of end of polling at each booth.

The petitions had sought directions to the EC to compile and publish this data on its website after each phase, beginning with the next round of voting in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

The EC feels duly strengthened by the Supreme Court's observations and verdict on the process of release of turnout data, the poll body said in a statement today while voting was going on in the sixth phase. The final phase is on June 1.

"This brings upon the Commission, a higher responsibility to serve the cause of electoral democracy with undeterred resolution," the EC said.

The EC said the whole exercise of release of turnout data from the day elections began on April 19 has been accurate, consistent and in accordance with election laws and "without any discrepancy whatsoever".

The EC refuted allegations about delay in releasing voter turnout data. It said the data was always available 24x7 on the "facilitative voter turnout app from 9.30 am on the polling day in each phase".

"It (app) publishes estimated voter turnout on two hourly basis till 1730 hours (5.30 pm). After 1900 hours (7 pm) when the polling parties start arriving, data is continuously updated. By midnight on the poll day, the voter turnout app will show best estimated "Close of Poll (COP)" data in percentage form," the EC said.

"Different media organisations pick up data at different points in time as per their convenience to report next morning. After the arrival of the poll parties, depending on geographical and weather conditions, the data of voters attains finality on P+1 or P+2 or P+3 (p denotes polling day) or more days, depending upon arrival of parties and number of re-polls, if any," the EC said in the statement.

Amid the Supreme Court hearing of the turnout row, several Opposition leaders, including Mahua Moitra and the Congress's Pawan Khera, had red-flagged what they claimed as possible vote fraud - i.e. there was concern the increased number of votes shown after polling could be illegally added to the tally of any one political party.

More significantly, Justices S Narasimha and Sanjay Karol pointed out the interim appeal by the petitioner - the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) - was similar to a writ petition by Ms Moitra in 2019, which wanted the EC to "formulate a protocol mandating reporting of Form 17C... within 48 hours (for a Lok Sabha election)", which is unresolved.

"What is the nexus between 2019 and 2024 applications? Why didn't you file a separate writ petition?" the court had questioned ADR, insisting it would not intervene in the middle of an election. "This application will be heard after the election... in-between an election, hands off. We cannot interrupt (the electoral process)... we are also responsible citizens," Justice Datta said.