The Indian Express
Avinash Nair

18-19 age group numbers have fallen even as total number of voters have been increasing; CEO said expected 3.6% share, it stands at 2.39%

In the coming elections to the Gujarat Assembly, almost half the total number of eligible voters are below 40 years of age.
However, the share of first-time voters in this group is on the decline, continuing a trend that began 10 years ago.

As per the latest enrolment data shared by the Election Commission, of the 4.9 crore voters enrolled, nearly 2.35 crore are below 40. Of these, first-time voters number 11.74 lakh, which is less compared to voters in the 18-19 age group in the 2012 and 2017 polls.

The first-time voters this election form 2.39% of the total voters, compared to 2.7% (11.8 lakh of total 4.33 crore) in the 2017 polls, and as much as 3.5% (13.3 lakh of 3.81 crore) in 2012. The drop in their numbers has coincided with the rise in overall voter strength in the state.

The highest chunk of under-40 voters belong to the 30-39 age group. There are 1.21 crore voters in this group, which makes them as many as one-fourth of the total voters in the state. In 2017, the 30-39 age group voters numbered 1.12 crore.

The second highest number of voters (1.03 crore) are in the 20-29 age group. There are 9.8 lakh voters who are 80 years of age and above, a sharp rise from 6.3 lakh in 2017.

In August, Chief Electoral Officer P Bharathi had told The Indian Express in an interview that one of its challenges was the enrolment of first-time voters. “The number of first-time voters who are in the age group of 18-19 years should be 3.66% of the total voters. But we are currently at 1%. The Special Summary Revision (SSR) being carried out currently is focused on enrolling maximum number of voters in the 18-19 age group”, she had said.

The 18-19 age group is the only cohort which has seen a decrease in the number of voters in the last five years, in fact. The decrease is more glaring as the Election Commission had permitted the enrolment of those turning 18 till October 1, 2022, and organised special campaigns in September for the same

Earlier, the cut-off date for publishing final electoral rolls was January 2022. But this time, this was put off till October 10, to enroll as many as possible.

Apart from special drives, CEO Bharathi held a voter awareness campaign targeted at young voters in Ahmedabad on November 13, with an artist roped in to draw the youth.

Asked the reason for the decline in voters, a senior EC official said: “The numbers are only slightly less than 2017. The current Census is from 2011. Things will only be clear once a fresh Census is in place.”

Pankti Jog, the state coordinator of the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) said the decrease in first-time voters could possibly be due to migration of students outside for studies or delays in the process of registration of such voters.

Professor PM Patel, former head of political science department at Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, agreed. “Minor demographic shifts or unevenness over a period of five years is normal, but its reflection in electoral rolls is pregnant with several imagined possibilities. The young voters might have gone out of state or abroad for studies. Secondly, the failure of politics, governance, and joblessness may have resulted in them not registering as voters. It could also be voter fatigue spreading to younger voters from the older ones, especially in urban areas,” Professor Patel said.

Of the total 11.74 lakh first-time voters in Gujarat, almost the same number will cast their votes in the two phases, on December 1 and December 5. In Phase-1, the highest voters in the 18-19 age group are in Surat district (1.02 lakh), while the lowest are in Dang (8,680). In Phase-2, Ahmedabad district has the maximum such voters (93,428), while the lowest are in Chhota Udepur (20,638).

© Association for Democratic Reforms
Privacy And Terms Of Use
Donation Payment Method