Sand art created at Marina beach as part of the Greater Chennai Corporation’s voter awareness initiative.

Sand art created at Marina beach as part of the Greater Chennai Corporation’s voter awareness initiative.
| Photo Credit: R. RAGU

With poll day just around the corner in Tamil Nadu, many first-time voters have either postponed their vacation or plan to take a short break from studies to travel to their hometown in order to vote in the upcoming Lok Sabha election. Some of them who have registered in the electoral rolls are waiting to receive their voter identity cards.

Several youngsters who recently turned 18 are all eager to exercise their franchise for the first time. The Election Commission of India (EC) has identified nearly 10.92 lakh electors aged 18-19 in Tamil Nadu.

Rayhan Zubaidha, an 18-year-old resident of Egmore, said: “I feel like an adult now with a responsibility. I must be careful in choosing the right symbol, and I didn’t want to miss the chance.”

Many noted that they would consult their parents and friends on current political scenarios and candidates. N. Afreen, a college student in Nungambakkam, said she was happy to receive her voter ID card and had since updated herself about the Chennai Central constituency, where she lives, through newspapers and discussions with her parents.

Some like P. Merlin Carol, a resident of Ekkaduthangal, have postponed vacation to be in the city to cast their vote and take a selfie with the indelible ink on their finger. “I am glad that I am getting a chance to vote within a few months of turning 18. I have an idea about EVMs and how to vote. My parents are also on election duty this time, and I decided to stay in the city this vacation,” she added.

Several students in outstation colleges are also keen on travelling to their hometowns to cast their votes. Krithik Jayen B., a first- year B. Tech student in Coimbatore, is set to travel to Tirunelveli to vote. “I have been looking forward to this since childhood and got updates from parents. I learnt about what qualities to look for in a candidate and the voting process through classes,” he said.

While some people such as S. Swetha of Avadi are waiting for their voter ID, others have missed their right to vote, as they will only turn 18 a few days after the election.

Samyuktha Ramana, 19, a Mylapore resident, believes every vote can make a difference. She hopes the government will ensure women’s safety, change perceptions of transpersons in society, and include Indian sign language in the school syllabus.

Some of the first-time voters, however, said they would vote based on their parents’ choice. Jen, a second-year college student in Guindy, said she barely had time for politics as academics took up most of her time. “Nobody indulges in political discourse in college,” she said.

In Chennai district, awareness activities will continue till April 17 in government colleges and industrial training institute campuses to encourage young electors. “Slogans such as ‘My Vote is My Right’ and ‘Voting is My Responsibility” were popularised through the use of music and dance in public spaces as well,” said District Election Officer J. Radhakrishnan.

(With inputs from R. Aishwaryaa)

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