The fifth phase of polling, conducted on 6th May 2019, witnessed Indian voters cast their mandate to elect representatives for 425 out of the total 543 Lok Sabha seats. The final two phases, to be held on 12th and 19th May, will conclude the largest democratic exercise in the world.
Previous election, in the year 2014 had seen a 66% voter turnout, highest in India’s electoral history and 8 percentage points (ppt) higher than that in 2009. The first 5 phases of the current elections however, indicate that 2019 could surpass 2014 in terms of voter turnout percentage. The average voter turnout in the first four phases came close to 67%, with only the second phase recording a marginal decline (0.2ppt) against 2014.
Voter turnout significantly increased in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh (versus 2014). Note that the BJP lost the assembly elections in these 3 states held in Dec 2018. Uttar Pradesh witnessed a 2ppt decline in voter turnout while it remained broadly unchanged for West Bengal and slightly lower in Odisha. Among the southern states, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh saw higher voter turnout while Tamil Nadu and Telangana witnessed a decline.
High voter turnout is often viewed as a strong anti-incumbency indicator. For instance, in 2014 the NDA won 96% of the seats where voter turnout grew by more than 15ppt (won 86% seats where turnout grew by 10-15ppt). However, the higher turnout could also be caused by increased awareness and convenience in voting, making it difficult to draw a linear correlation.
Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines will be deployed for the first time in this election. Exit poll estimates are expected to be made available only after 6:30 pm IST on 19th May, following Election Commission’s guidelines. Vote counting will take place on 23rd May 2019.