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May 14, 2009

Refusal to vote faces resistance

The option of refusing to vote for any of the candidates in the fray met with lack of awareness and resistance at a number of polling stations in Coimbatore.In many cases, the public remained unaware of such an option and in places where they wanted to exercise such an option the polling personnel remained clueless on 49 (0) of the Conduct of Election Rules of 1961, India and the 17 A – Register, wherein the voter is expected to register his refusal to vote for any of the candidates.

The option was introduced by the Election Commission to prevent cases of impersonation wherein the vote of an electorate not turning up at the polling station could be misused.In many places, inquiries by reporters on entries in 17 A register left the polling staff including the presiding officer clueless. A group of students who visited the Collectorate media room complained that they were not allowed to use the 49 (0) option.At Ramakrishnanpuram Elementary school a woman voter who wanted to exercise the option had to face resistance at the hands of the polling personnel who were supported by the agents who exhorted her to cast her vote in favour of some candidate.

For resisting option 49 (0) in places such as Singnallur and Avanshi while in Annur a presiding officer was removed for making a person vote for a candidate of his choice under the pretext of helping him with the EVM.

The voter was even admonished by the agents for saying that after affixing the indelible ink mark on the finger. The polling personnel in some polling stations accused the voters of wasting the time of every one by opting for 49 (0). At many polling stations in Pollachi Lok Sabha seat, there were not a single 49 (0) option and 17 A register entry till 3 p.m. Many polling personnel asked the voters on whether there was any prescribed form for suing such an option.

District Election officials confirmed that there were instances of presiding officers being removed for resisting option 49 (0) in places such as Singnallur and Avanshi while in Annur a presiding officer was removed for making a person vote for a candidate of his choice under the pretext of helping him with the EVM.

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