In the first ever general election in 1952, India had 176 million registered voters while in the most recent general elections of 2014, the country has 814 million registered voters (India Today, 2014). People in India, the largest democracy of the world elect representatives for Parliament, State Assembly, Panchayat and Nagar Palika. While the Members of Legislative Assembly (MLA) come together to form the state level government, the Members of Parliament (MP) constitute the national level government.
A GIS is used to record, accumulate, manage, demonstrate and analyze spatial data. This allows users to conceptualize spatial data and utilize the results for various applications. Latterly, the Election Commission of India has been looking into the integration of Geographical Information System (GIS) and elections. GIS can be used in elections for updates in the voter lists, the location of polling stations, constituency population analysis and many more. ECI intends to create a GIS cell along with a Tech Lab in ECI to maximize the use of visual data over tabular data using GIS (ECI, 2017).
Election mapping provides graphical data on various aspects of elections such as the list of constituencies, polling booths and candidates and their details. This can prove to be a powerful tool in the hands of officials, citizens and media houses for an in-depth analysis of elections. This data can also help officials in the smooth conduct of the elections. With the exact location of polling booths and the population structure of the constituency a click away, local law enforcement agencies can decide how many personnel are required per booth as well. The possibilities of using GIS in elections are endless as it is beneficial for both the officials and the citizens.
Deploying GIS in Electoral Mapping
In 2016, Assam, Kerala, Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal conducted their Legislative Assembly state elections. The Election Commission of India (ECI) took initiatives to employ GIS in these elections to make the process smooth and transparent (PIB, 2016). These included multiple mobile applications which provided the citizens significant information regarding their candidates, GIS was also employed for election mapping in Karnataka by the Karnataka NRDMS programme, which is finely funded by the Department of Science & Technology (DST), Government of India and the Govern emend of Karnataka (KSCST, 2017). In Meghalaya, GIS was used for election management in the conjoined effort of Department of Election, Government of Meghalaya and North Eastern Space Applications Centre, Department of Space, Government of India.
What does it look like?
Image Source: North Eastern Space Applications Centre and Department of Election,
Government of Meghalaya
The above image showcases the GIS map of Shillong, Meghalaya which illustrates features such as the constituency boundary, the state highways and more.
The above map is a GIS representation of Shimoga district, Karnataka. The GIS map depicts critical and vulnerable polling stations in the district.
GIS application in elections is not just useful during elections for a smooth conduc, but helps pre-election and post-election as well. Before elections, officials can analyze the population growth pattern from previous elections and make amends to the constituency area as the population in each constituency should be roughly equal across the state (ECI, 2003). During elections, officials and citizens can access the details of polling booths, candidates and other data which can make the election process smoother. After elections, the competing parties can analyze the results and start working towards the next elections.