Hyderabad, April 16: The change in polling time in the first phase elections
on Thursday robbed many voters of the right to exercise their franchise.
Thousands of voters, who turned up late, had to leave polling stations in
almost all Assembly constituencies without casting their vote.
Election Commission had advanced the closing time by an hour to enable
polling staff and police personnel to shift voting machines from polling
stations to district headquarters before the sunset. Polling is normally held
between 7.00 am and 5.00 pm and this time the Election Commission
conducted polling from 7.00 am to 4.00 pm. All the 154 Assembly
constituencies and 22 Lok Sabha constituencies that went to the polls in the
first phase fall in Naxal-hit Telangana and north coastal Andhra.
Though the EC took the decision in advance, it could not spread the message
across villages and far-flung. Voters unaware of the change in the polling
time turned up even after 4.00 pm thinking that there's still time left for them
to vote. They were shocked when security personnel turned them away
saying that polling had concluded at 4.00 pm. However, those who were
inside the polling booths before 4.00 pm were allowed to cast their vote.
Moreover, the EC officials failed to paste the changed timings outside polling
In twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad, hundreds of voters, who
turned up after 4.00 pm, were not allowed to vote. In the three polling booths
set up at SS Hindi Vidhyalaya near Sikh village in Secunderabad and four
polling booths in AV College voters were turned away after 4.00 pm.
"The Election Commission should have announced the change in timings
through loud speakers. The message did not penetrate down the line.
Thinking that still one hour is left for the polling to end, I turned up at 4.05
pm," said K Raju, a voter from Chandulal Bowli in Sikh village.
Around 200 voters turned up at polling stations in Dornakal, Mahabubabad,
and Warangal (East) and Warangal (West) after the 4 pm. In north coastal
Andhra too, the "late comers" were not allowed to cast their vote. Similar
reports have come in from Adilabad, Karimnagar, Medak, Warangal and
Chief Electoral Officer IV Subba Rao, however, said they had given wide
publicity to the change in poll timing. Polling will be held as usual, between
7.00 am and 5.00 pm in the second phase covering south coastal districts and
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