“Mumbai’s largest apolitical, voter registration/awareness campaign! Making voting easy, engaging and fun for the youth of Mumbai ahead of the BMC elections”- Operation Black Dot
In 2012 Mumbai was one of the largest cities in the world. It’s total population was around 21,000,000 but last municipal election, only 4,300,000 Mumbaikars actually voted. Lack of concern, faith, ignorance and Inaccessibility is to be blamed but this year 55.53% of the city’s registered voters exercised their franchise, significant not only because this was the highest voter turnout since 1992 in Mumbai, but also because Mumbai has never crossed the 50% mark in the BMC polls for 25 years.
Part of the credit for Mumbai’s historic voter turnout on Tuesday goes to a bunch of youth, who coupled with the power of the Internet, keep the focus on people getting inked. These city youngsters were collecting, analysing data about the polls, and the candidates. Over the last two months, the team behind Operation Black Dot (OBD) has worked tirelessly to ensure voters around the city were provided with information on whether their names were on the electoral lists and who the candidates in wards across Mumbai are.
“We worked hard to bridge the gap between the youngsters and the city’s politics. The result has been astonishing.”, says Ruben Mascarenhas, COO at Operation Black Dot – the organization that has worked with the Maharashtra State Election Commission extensively to increase voter turnout under the Mahavoter campaign. Adding further, he said “we succeded in activating Mumbai’s young voter base, which was very low earlier. From simplifying the election process to giving special directives to Mumbai University students to vote, the response has been extremely positive. People in the poll booths, party volunteers were using our voter search!”
The objective of the campaign, launched by a youth brand, was to ensure 100% voter registration. It will also educate the youth about politics in order to make them take an informed decision at the ballot box.
Youngsters across urban India often find the process of enrolling as voters unwieldy, and therefore, stay away from the process of voting. Besides, another factor responsible for the apathy of the youth towards voting includes their lack of awareness and clarity on the varying standpoints of different political parties to form a clear, informed opinion.
The campaign uses innovative methods to engage the youngsters, including use of social media such as YouTube and Facebook extensively.
The campaign also seeks the role of the Election Commission. Along with voter registration, it raises awareness about current affairs and engaging with political figures to discuss pressing issues.
In December 2016, the group tied up with the State Election Commission, Maharashtra. “The main focus for this integrated campaign was to see why voter percentages were low and there was a need to address issues like why voting in local body elections is important,” says Swaraj Shetty, Chief Innovation Officer of OBD. “The other issue we needed to address was how to vote; a lot of people are unaware about their wards and candidates.”
Abhishek Gharat, Chief Technology Officer at OBD and co-founder of KraftPixel concurs about the team having a single focus. “Last time, the turnout in the elections was barely 45 percent. For a municipal corporation that has a budget of Rs 20,000 crore each year, this is an important movement.”
In the recent BMC elections, OBD launched the online campaign ‘Mahavoter Project’. The campaign is one of the largest apolitical voter registration and awareness campaign in Mumbai. The key message behind the campaign was to spread the message of “Why and How to Vote”.
Use of Facebook Bot makes it easier, intriguing, engaging and fun for the younger generation of Mumbai to be aware and informed about the elections on the election day. The Facebook page of the campaign has about 21,000 likes at the time of writing. The bot was aimed at first-time voters to improve the overall voter turnout in the BMC elections. Facebook also enabled the election megaphone notification for the Maharashtra State Election Commission (MSEC).
Phantom, AIB, IMPED, and Cordiform films produced five short films which were released on the weekend before the elections resulting in the massive surge in the digital outreach numbers of the OBD page and has more than 5.5 lakh views. MSEC also launched short films with Ratan Tata, Raveena Tandon and others.
Blue room session Hosted by Twitter India
Mahavoter hashtags, #GetInkedMumbai and #VoteKarMaharashtra reached more than 1.2 crore people on twitter. Twitter India also hosted a blue room session for the first time for local body elections with MSEC Commissioner, Journalists and activists.
OBD also conducted a live periscope sessions with representatives of five parties, Shiv Sena, BJP, MNS, AAP and Congress.
Voter Search feature (developed by KraftPixel) on the OBD website had a very fast response and takes less than a second for queries on records of crores. “On the election day while most of the election commission websites were facing glitches party workers were using the OBD website for voter list search,” Abhishek Gharat said. On an average, there were 7000+ live users per second on the election day i.e. 21st Feb and there were around 6,64,100 voter searches based on voter ID and 32,05,427 name based searches in total.
“We’re not here to conduct the elections, we’re not contractors, we’re the common people just like you, but we’re here to sensitise the general population, we’re a movement. We’ll help wherever we get an opportunity to. It’s always possible to work with the government, and this can be achieved through equal public and government participation. We already have the technology and I hope we get a chance to assist other election commissions as well. I’m sure that they’re watching and taking note,” he added.
Before every election, the Election commission takes up a voter awareness campaign, centred around reaching out to people on polling day through various mediums, urging them to vote. Instead of last-minute announcements through TV and radio, ECs should plan to disburse crucial information much before the day of polling through not only Mainstream Media but also through the Social media like the Mahavoter campaign did.
Given our current socio-economic and political scenario, elections are playing a key role in shaping the future of our country. Hence, movements like Operation Black Dot can play a crucial role in shaping that future. The Logical Indian appreciates the efforts of all those involved in this initiative and hopes that more people are inspired to bring about such a change.
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