With the first phase of the Lok Sabha elections on April 19 recording a three per cent drop in the combined voter turnout as compared to 2019, the Election Commission (EC) is planning to improve its strategy to increase the voting percentage. Out of the 21 states and union territories that participated in the first phase, 19 witnessed a decrease in voting percentages following which the poll body is set to take key steps to boost the numbers.

The Election Commission has acknowledged that it is "very concerned" about the decline in voter turnout, with a senior official stating that while voter enthusiasm was evident, it was not sufficient to bring them to the polling stations. "The Election Commission had made a strong appeal for voting to raise awareness among voters. Efforts were also made to improve facilities at polling stations to make voting a pleasant experience, but it seems they fell short."

As per the reports, the low turnout in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections has been attributed to several factors. Firstly, the onset of a heatwave during the summer has likely discouraged some voters from going to the polls. Additionally, the voting period for this election began eight days later than it did in 2019, which may have affected voter participation. Furthermore, the timing of the polling date coinciding with the wedding season and festivals could have contributed to lower turnout as well. Moreover, some voters may feel that their individual votes will not impact the outcome of the Lok Sabha elections, leading to apathy towards voting.

The Election Commission is currently analysing the reasons behind the low turnout and held a meeting with the India Meteorological Department (IMD), National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and the Ministry of Health, to understand the developing weather situation and discuss measures to mitigate any risk due to hot weather conditions during the period of General Elections. 

Among the states and union territories, only three states – Chhattisgarh, Meghalaya, and

Sikkim – have witnessed a higher turnout compared to 2019. Meanwhile, Nagaland recorded a voting percentage of 57.7 per cent, which is 25 percentage points less than in 2019. Additionally, there has been a decrease in turnout in Manipur by 7.7 percentage points, in Madhya Pradesh by more than 7 percentage points, and in Rajasthan and Mizoram by more than 6 percentage points.

A state like Bihar recorded the lowest turnout of 49.2% in the first phase; Even though it did not surprise the Election Commission as the survey covered the Left Wing Extremism affected area, the corresponding turnout was higher at 53.47 per cent in 2019. Similarly, in Uttar Pradesh (UP), the voting percentage decreased from 66.5 per cent to 61.1 per cent.

In the two states where voting has concluded, Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand, there has been a decline in turnout. Despite a heated campaign in Tamil Nadu, which included controversies such as the exchange between the DMK and the BJP over Tamil Nadu Minister Udhayanidhi Stalin's 'Sanatan Dharma' remark, the state recorded a lower turnout. In Uttarakhand, voter enthusiasm was also low, with turnout declining from 61.5 per cent to 57.2 per cent compared to 2019. West Bengal, known for its high turnout, saw an impressive turnout of 81.9 per cent, but this was still lower than the 84.7 per cent figure recorded in 2019.

Election Commission sources mentioned the challenge of pinpointing specific voters responsible for the low turnout. An Election Commission official stated, "We don't categorize or profile voters. Our focus is on motivating and mobilizing all segments of society to overcome apathy and participate in the voting process." 

The poll body is currently analysing the factors contributing to the lower voter turnout.  The EC aims to motivate and mobilize all voter categories with a revamped strategy that includes enhanced campaigns and efforts to eliminate apathy, ensuring increased voter turnout. This strategy is scheduled to be implemented before the second phase of voting on April 26.
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