During India’s 2009 election, there were not enough uniformed personnel to guard every one of the country’s 828,000 polling places or to keep the peace during the campaign period. The Election Commission of India introduced “vulnerability mapping” to help election officials decide where to deploy the police and paramilitary personnel ahead of polling day. The state of West Bengal piloted the new tactic. Intense political competition and a Maoist insurgency in some parts of the state meant West Bengal was more susceptible to trouble than many other places in the country. Using general guidelines drawn up by the commission, the head election official for West Bengal, Debashis Sen, classified polling stations by their level of sensitivity. These rankings helped election officials decide where to position the police and paramilitary. The commission also instructed the police to execute existing arrest warrants and to keep close tabs on likely offenders. Election officials in West Bengal said the mapping helped dampen violence and increase voter turnout on election day.
Michael Scharff drafted this case study on the basis of interviews conducted in New Delhi and Kolkata, India, in November 2010. Case published August 2011.
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