Vikash Sharma

Resentment brewed among voters over 'last-minute' restrictions on carrying mobile phones inside polling booths in Odisha on the third phase of voting on Saturday. Though there are prescribed rules for restrictions on mobile phones, many voters rued that they were unaware and had to return as there was no provision to keep their phones safe inside or near the booth.

Earlier in the day, Additional Chief Electoral Officer informed that voters and polling agents are strictly prohibited from carrying mobile phones inside polling booths. Senior journalist Prasanna Mohanty said several complaints have surfaced that several voters including elderly voters are returning for mobile phones.

“I had no information as well in this regard. There was no specific place to keep mobile phones at the booth where I exercised my franchise. There is a rule not to carry cell phones. Such inconvenience could have been avoided if the voters had prior information.”

According to Mohanty, it is certainly contradictory as on one hand selfie points have been set up and on the other hand restrictions being clamped on mobile phones.

“It will be unfortunate if a voter is forced to return due to mobile phone restriction. This may affect voters' turnout. The voters had no prior information regarding the restriction. Ignorance of law cannot be an excuse but why this information was not shared earlier when other information is being shared,” Mohanty added.

An elderly citizen said, “Had they informed us earlier, we would not have brought mobile phones. It is practically impossible for us to go back, keep our mobile phones and come back to cast vote.”

Another voter said, “We will vote certainly. But several people are returning. Had the authorities created awareness and made provisions for safe keeping of mobile phones, things would have been much easier for the voters.”

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