It doesn’t end with voting

Amarjit Singh Madhok

THE recent elections took me down memory lane, prompting me to share my reminiscences of the voting system in the US during my last visit there in 2014. India, the largest democracy in the world, has always had to counter doubts on the sanctity of its elections. In America, I felt that citizens need to be involved to make democracy transparent and a success.

On a slightly cold November morning of 2014, a glance at the community hall across the street showed a sectioned off area for a polling booth. Given the sensitivity of the elections, I decided to stay away, but by afternoon, my journalistic instinct took over. I did not cross the warning notice paper stuck on a tree at the beginning of the cordoned area, but found a couple of voters willing to give an insight into the process. Amazingly enough, one of the officers permitted me to be a silent observer in the hall, where voting was being conducted. No confidential information was shared or laws were violated in this process.

There was a notice in nine languages stuck on the entrance door indicating the polling booth. Imagine my joy when I saw Hindi as one of the languages! Barely suppressing my joy, I asked the officer about it. He mentioned that Hindi was one of the official languages. He also showed me the instruction book for a polling officer. Just like in India, it contained information on how to manage voters.

It was a surprise to see senior citizens as polling officers. One officer was standing guard at an ATM-like voting machine to monitor and provide support. It was an indescribable thought to learn that they all, except one, were volunteers to help make the elections a success to contribute to society. Each voter was sporting ‘I Voted’ sticker, proudly exclaiming their contribution to the making of a new government.

After watching for a while, I thanked the officers and took my leave. Once outside, I realised the difference in the two democracies again. There were no hassles of political party workers, no posters and flags, no agents, no queues of voters. It was a sobering thought to realise that to make a real democracy, we need to be more engaged. To have faith in the system, we need to participate more than just voting. Another way of showing your pride in your nationality is to own it. It is easy to lay the blame at someone’s door and question the system. We need to step up and dedicate our time, and be morally true to ourselves, if we want things to change.

I walked back home thinking if the same ideology could be adopted in our country. It could bring about a huge difference.

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