Voter list upgradation: EC targets more women enrolment
The Election Commission yesterday launched a countrywide campaign to update the voter list when the number of women voters is decreasing due to social and religious grounds and the absence of door-to-door drive over the last two years.
The Commission this time will visit every household putting emphasis on enrolling all eligible women voters, officials said.
This would be the last registration process for prospective voters before the 12th parliamentary election.
EC data show ahead of the 2008 national elections, there were 51.88 percent female voters and 49.12 percent male voters.
In March this year, the figures stood at 49.08 percent and 50.92 percent, respectively. The total number of voters is now 11,32,870,10 -- 5,55,97,027 of them women.
Female voters made up 49.84 percent of the total voters ahead of the 2014 general election. It came down to 49.56 percent ahead of the 2018 parliamentary polls.
Election Commissioner Md Alamgir said the absence of door-to-door drive for updating the voter list in the last two years and increasing number of women leaving home districts to cities seeking work are among the key reasons behind the drop in the number of women voters.
EC officials mentioned several other factors like reluctance of women to collect birth certificates by paying the prescribed fees and reluctance of unmarried Hindu women to get registered as voter at their parents' address.
Besides, unmarried women and those from poverty-prone areas and with less education lack interests to become voters.
EC officials also pointed out factors like failures to provide parents' national identity cards for the procedures and long distance of registration centres and reluctance to take pictures on religious and social grounds.
Mentioning these reasons, the EC in its May 10 order urged all elected women vice-chairmen of upazilas, union parishads and municipalities to play an active role so that the number of female voters go up during the updating process.
The EC in another order to all election officers in upazilas and districts asked them to ensure that no women is left out.
"We do not want any eligible voters, especially women, to remain out of the voter list," Alamgir said.
Immediate-past election commissioner Rafiqul Islam, also joint secretary at the EC in 2008, said many women are unwilling to take photos on religious ground, while many others have migrated internally. These are the two vital factors behind the falling number of female voters.
Ahead of the 2007-08 voter list upgradation, EC officials launched a very strong awareness campaign saying photos are also needed to perform Hajj.
This worked very well back then and led to remarkable rise in the female voter enrolment. The absence of such awareness campaigns is another reason, he added.
EC data show there were 8,10,58,698 voters ahead of the 2008 elections. Of them 4,12,36,149 were women and 3,98, 22,549 men.
Rafiqul Islam said door-to-door visit could not be done in 2020 and 2021 due to Covid-19 situation. Usually, the EC gets information on eligible voters by going door-to-door.
Nationally, there are 1.84 percent more male voters than female. In Cox's Bazar and Rangamati, this figure is 5 percent, EC officials said.
Male voters lead their counterparts by 4 percent in Chattogram, Feni, Noakhali, Shariatpur, Madaripur and Bhola, and by 3 percent in Dhaka, Brahmanbaria, Chandpur, Lakshmipur, Munshiganj, Sylhet and Bandarban districts.
The EC last collected information of eligible voters in 2019 of those born between January 1, 2001, and January 1, 2004.
VOTER LIST UPDATING STARTS
Enumerators of the EC will visit households for three weeks from May 20 to collect information on prospective voters in 140 upazilas of 64 districts, SM Asaduzzman, joint secretary of the EC, told The Daily Star.
Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal, who inaugurated the voter updating work in Savar yesterday morning, said all political parties, including the BNP, will soon be called for a dialogue on the elections.
"Today, the work of preparing the voter list begins. There's a lot of work to do. Soon all parties, including the BNP, will be invited for talks. It will happen in the next one or two months," he told reporters there.
Asked what the Election Commission is doing to further increase the EVM capacity, he said they would hold some seminars on the issue before making any decision. "I can't take any decision alone."
This time, EC representatives would collect data about citizens born on or after January 1, 2005, January 1, 2006 and January 1, 2007, and they would gradually be included in the electoral roll when they turn 18, he said.
Talking to this correspondent last night, EC Secretary Md Humayun Kabir Khandaker said this campaign would ensure that no eligible voter is excluded from the list. "Special measures will be taken to include those from Bede community and red-light areas."