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Argument: Not Everyone Has a Vote in the World’s Largest Democracy Not Everyone Has a Vote in the World’s Lar...
MUMBAI—Maroof Azam, a 24-year-old mechanic, dropped his tools to accost a man who was passing by his store. The person in question was a volunteer for a smartphone app that tracked missing voters. “Did you receive my voter card yet?” Azam asked, his hands blackened with soot from the bike he was repairing. “No, you are rejected,” the volunteer said. Azam’s face turned ashen as he responded: “I am Indian—at least I should be allowed to vote.”
Azam is among the thousands of people who found themselves unable to participate in Monday’s state elections in Maharashtra, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party is expected to win handily when the results are announced on Oct. 24. An officer appointed by the election authorities had come to enquire about Azam’s documents, said the volunteer who filed his application, but his case never got approved—despite Azam producing valid identification papers. The same thing happened in the country’s general elections in May.
India is often celebrated for its status as the world’s largest democracy, but relatively little attention is given to the fact that many citizens are denied the chance to vote. The founders of Missing Voters, a smartphone app to track disenfranchised voters in India, estimated that nearly 120 million citizens were missing from voter lists in last May’s national election. More than half of those disenfranchised citizens were Muslims like Azam or lower-caste Dalits, minorities who would, put together, normally constitute less than a third of the country’s population. Women are also disproportionately affected: The political scientists Prannoy Roy and Dorab Sopariwala calculated in a book released this year that, on average, approximately 40,000 female voters are missing from the electoral rolls in every constituency in India, a number often higher than the winning margin in many lower house electoral contests.
India is often celebrated for its status as the world’s largest democracy, but relatively little attention is given to the fact that many citizens are denied the chance to vote.
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