Elections Headed For Highest-Ever Turnout

Elections Headed For Highest-Ever TurnoutAn all-time high turnout for Lok Sabha polls is not just likely this year, it is as good as certain. Some simple back-of-the-envelope calculations show that unless there is a dramatic reversal of the trend so far in the remaining two phases of polling on Wednesday and next Monday, the record of 64% set in the 1984 polls will be broken.

Here’s how the numbers work out: The seven phases of polling so far have covered 438 seats and witnessed an overall turnout of 66.2% or 44.3 crore voters. The turnout in these same seats in 2009 was 57.6%, which means there has been a jump of about 8.6 percentage points.

To match the 1984 record, around 52.2 crore of the roughly 81.5 crore registered voters must vote in the 16th Lok Sabha elections. That means another approximately 7.9 crore voters must turn up at polling booths in the remaining two phases if the mark is to be reached. With about 14.6 crore being the total electorate for these two phases, that means a turnout of 54% will do the trick.

A turnout of 54% may not seem like a certainty, but consider the fact that the figure for the remaining 105 seats in 2009 was 60.7%. Going by the trend so far, that is only likely to be higher this time. But even if it isn’t, it is difficult to see it actually dropping much below the 2009 level.

An interesting feature of the turnout this time is the fact that not a single state or union territory that has finished voting has recorded a turnout of under 60%. Contrast that to 2009, when five states had turnouts of below even 50%.


Of the states that haven’t yet finished polling, only Bihar and Jammu & Kashmir are likely to finish with figures of under 60%. But even here, Bihar’s average turnout of nearly 56% in the phases so far has been much higher than the 44.4% recorded in the same seats in 2009.

In J&K, Jammu and Udhampur have seen the figures rise sharply, but Srinagar and Anantnag continue to have figures in the 25-30% range though just a bit higher than last time. Even Uttar Pradesh, with nearly 62% polling in 47 seats so far (compared to 49.5% in the same seats last time) will in all probability cross the 60% mark this time.

There is, of course, a problem in comparing voter turnouts across Lok Sabha elections. Electoral rolls in the early years contained a lot more non-existent voters – who had died or shifted out of the constituency – than current ones. That would tend to understate the turnout. On the other hand, rigging and booth capturing were rampant in many parts of the country, which could artificially boost turnouts. Discounting for these factors is clearly not easy.

Despite those caveats, there is no mistaking the trend of increasing voter participation in recent years, driven largely by the efforts of the Election Commission, supported by a plethora of civil society groups and media, and helped by the high voter interest in this election.