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Concerned people say that there is a rule to go from house to house to collect information on those eligible to be voters, but this task is not always carried out properly. On top of that, due to the coronavirus outbreak, the work on updating the voter list by going house to house was not done for two years. That is one of the reasons for the fall in women voters.

However, it needs to be seen if there are any other reasons behind this too. If the gap between the number of male and female voters continues to widen, questions will arise concerning the voter list.

There has been no population census in the country since 2011. According to that census, the population at the time was just above 152.50 million. Of this, 76.4 million (7 crore 64 lakh) were male and 76.2 million (7 crore 62 lakh) were female. And the BBS survey of 2020 put the present population at 168.20 million (16 crore 82 lakh) with 84.2 million (8 crore 42 lakh) male and 84 million (8 crore 40 lakh) female.

Meanwhile, according to updated records of the election commission, till 2 March there were 110,328,710 (11 crore 32 lakh 87 thousand and 10 voters) in the country. Of these, 57,689,529 (5 crore 76 lakh 89 thousand 529) were male and 50,559,727 (5 crore 55 lakh 97 thousand and 27) were female. According to these figures, at present 50.92 per cent of the voters in the country is male and 49.08 per cent is female. Over the past year, till 19 January 2022, a little over 1.4 million (14 lakh) new voters have been added to the list. Of them, 69 per cent are male and only 31 per cent are female.

Additional secretary of the election commission, Ashok Kumar Debnath, speaking to Prothom Alo, said that because of the coronavirus outbreak, house-to-house collection of data on the voters had not been carried out. Without this, 100 per cent of the voters are not included.

He said that the election commission will begin the house-to-house drive from 20 May to collect voter information. Special attention will be paid to include women voters. A large number of those collecting the data will be women.

The voter list had faced serious questions at one point of time. There had been allegations of 12.3 million (1 crore 23 lakh) fake voters being included during the MA Aziz commission. After that, in 2007, during the caretaker government rule, the election commission headed by ATM Shamsul Huda took initiative for a voters' list with the voters' photographs. At the same time, voters were given national ID cards (NID).

EC sources said that before the ninth national parliamentary election in 2008, women voters made up 50.88 per cent of the total voters and men 49.11 per cent. At the time, though, many failed to become voters as they were out of the country. Almost all the migrant workers at the time were male. Later many came back to the country and registered as voters. Many expatriates, however, are still not voters.

Since 2008, there has been a steady decline in the number of female voters. EC sources said that before the 10th national parliamentary polls in 2014, the number of male voters increased to 50.15 per cent. And the number of female voters fell to 49.84 per cent. And in the 11th national parliamentary election of 2018, male voters were 50.43 per cent and female 49.56 per cent. In the three years since then, the number of female voters has lessened further. Now women make up 49.08 per cent of the total number of voters.

According to sources in EC, presently at a national level, male voters outnumber their female counterparts by over 2 per cent. But district-wise, in 15 districts the men voters outnumber the women voters by over 3 per cent. Among these, in Cox's Bazar and Rangamati districts, men voters are 5 per cent higher in number than women voters. In Chattogram, Feni, Noakhali, Shariatpur, Madaripur and Bhola, men voters outnumber women voters by over 4 per cent. In Dhaka, Brahmanbaria, Chandpur, Lakshmipur, Munishiganj, Sylhet and Bandarban, men outnumber women voters by 3 per cent.

The precondition to democracy is including all those eligible to be voters on the voters' list. But many women eligible to be voters are being left out or deprived. This is because data is not collected by going from house to house. This voter list is becoming unreliable.
Badiul Alam Majumdar, Secretary, SHUJAN

In Sherpur, Meherpur, Kurigram, Gaibandha, Jaipurhat and Bogura districts, the number of male voters is only slightly higher than female voters.

Secretary of Shushashoner Jonno Nagorik SHUJAN (Citizens for Good Governance), Badiul Alam Majumdar, told Prothom Alo that the precondition to democracy is including all those eligible to be voters on the voters' list. But many women eligible to be voters are being left out or deprived. This is because data is not collected by going from house to house. This voter list is becoming unreliable. The gap between the number of male and female voters may render the election questionable.

* This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ayesha Kabir

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