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Global Knowledge Network On Voter Education - learning from each other

Inaugural Session- International Seminar on “Strategies for Empowering Young and Future Voters”

NewsLetter The welcome address was given by Deputy Election Commissioner Shri Umesh Sinha who welcomed all to the seminar and introduced the theme “strategies for empowering young and future voters”. The theme is especially relevant due to its universal nature and one of the key aspects for the ideology ‘No Voter to be Left Behind’. He also emphasised that VoICE.NET would be a platform for the exchange of pioneering ideas and best practices from which all would be benefitted.

The welcome address was followed by address by Ms Marina Walter, Deputy Country Director, UNDP India. She emphasized the importance of involving and increasing the participation of the youth by involving them in the electoral process through the use of social media. She appreciated VoICE.NET as an excellent initiative and was proud of the fact that this would become a platform for many countries to come together and share the best electoral practices. She was also proud of the India-UNDP partnership’s commitment to the cause and the potential it has shown. Lastly, she again highlighted the need for continued initiatives in the direction of knowledge sharing through various Election Management Bodies.

In the following Address, Shri O.P. Rawat the Honourable Election Commissioner of India explained the importance of the topic of the seminar and the central theme for the current Voter’s festival. He also pointed out that the youth has been stereotyped for a long time with respect to their intelligence and decision making capabilities as far as their involvement in the electoral process is concerned. They have been underestimated and hence it is imperative that they are involved in the process as a respected stakeholder. He appreciated the initiatives UNDP in this regard as structural technological and infrastructural challenges are faced by all countries in some form or the other and mutual understanding and supporting each other is the way forward. There must be measures to raise awareness among the youth and consolidate their position in the elections and measure the same. It is equally important to ensure that no pseudo-participating activities must be avoided and only initiatives which actually make a difference should be carried out. One solution is not for all and sharing best practices is important and would be fruitful to all.

NewsLetter The address by Shri A.K. Joti the Honourable Election Commissioner of India focussed on increasing the inclusiveness of all segments of voters to ensure free, fair and credible elections. He also mentioned that participation must be ethical along with being inclusive. The sixty six journey of the Election Commission of India has empowered the voters of categories. Young Voters must be heard and their involvement is of very high importance. More than half the population in India is young and their involvement is crucial for the strengthening of the democratic process and hence the orientation of the Election Commission of India is voter centric with the ideology of ‘No Voter to be Left Behind’. The results have been evident by the way the gender gap in voting has reduced and the participation of the women surpassed men and also the increase in the voter turnout.
Social media has been harnessed and used extensively in creating awareness and promoting ethical voting like creation of whatsapp groups and applications, slogans, jingles and quiz regarding elections etc. The YouTube video of the announcement of elections on 4rth January 2017 was viewed by 2 lakh people in Punjab. Towards the end, the fact that each country is unique and different in many ways and hence requires a varied pool of solutions and experiences to learn from to act as a guiding force was reaffirmed.

The Honourable Election Commissioner of India, Dr Nasim Zaidi in his address mentioned that the VoICE.Net event held in October was attended by delegations from 30 Election Management Bodies and 18 Election Management Bodies have already become a member to VoICE.NET and more are willing to join. India is the youngest democracy where 20 million people turn 18 years every year. It becomes crucial to find the reasons for the growing voter apathy to enrolment and voting. Another aspect of great concern is to ensure informed and ethical voting. Finding ways to invest on new well designed strategic interventions for this purpose along with harnessing the potential of information technology for the first time and future voters is also important.The SVEEP division of the Election Commission of India has worked extensively in this regards by conducting school based registrations, extracurricular activities, mock polls , campus awareness drives etc.Also, appointments of campus ambassadors were carried out and interactive school engagement programs for the category of future voters (15 to 17 years) was conducted.

Partnership with Ministry of Youth and Departments
For reaching out to youth outside educational institutions, ECI has partnered with the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs and engaged various youth organizations affiliated with the Ministry. Special activities are planned with the youth organization for wide dissemination of information relating to electoral process. Special registration drives are held to include the youth outside educational institutions in the electoral roll. Sports competition in both rural and urban areas is among the popular activities taken up for engaging with these youth.

Revision of the school curriculum to accommodate electoral knowledge is also in the list of priority activities. Yet, there is scope to do a lot more collectively and collaboratively. Dr Zaidi congratulated the SVEEP division for organising the event and putting together the conference reader of the seminar and wished for its success.

Use of Technology and Social Media
While mobile phone has high penetration in India, youth use the mobile phones for accessing various services besides just making calls. Special apps have been developed to facilitate voters and make enrolment easier besides accessing other information related to elections like locating polling stations, checking names on voter list besides getting SMS alerts for registration and voting. Other popular media like internet and social media are widely used for imparting electoral education and information and for mobilising young voters.

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The Memorandum of Understanding was signed between India and Australia for international cooperation by Dr Nasim Zaidi, Chief Election Commissioner of India and Mr Tom Rogers, Election Commissioner of Australia.
Secondly, the Memorandum of Understanding was signed between India and Nepal for international cooperation by Dr Nasim Zaidi , Chief Election Commissioner of India and Mr Ayodhee Prasad Yadav, Chief Election Commissioner of Nepal.
Thirdly, the Memorandum of Understanding was signed between India and Bosnia-Herzegovina for international cooperation by Mr A.K. Joti, Election Commissioner of India and Dr. Suad Arnantovic, Member-Commissioner and past President, Central Election Commission of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Last, but not the least, the Memorandum of Understanding was signed between India and Fiji for international cooperation by Mr O.P Rawat, Election Commissioner of India andMr. Mohammad Saneem ,Supervisor, Fijian Elections Office.