In a major move to increase voter participation, the Election Commission on Thursday said it has developed a prototype of a remote electronic voting machine (RVM) for domestic migrant voters and has invited political parties for a demonstration on January 16.
If implemented after stakeholder consultations, migrant voters do not need to travel to their home district to exercise their franchise.
Terming counting of votes cast at remote booths and their transmission to the returning officer in other states as a “technological challenge”, Election Commission (EC) officials said RVMs will be developed as “a robust, failproof and efficient stand-alone system” based on existing electronic voting machines and will not be connected to the internet.
Based on feedback from various stakeholders and the demonstration of the prototype, EC will appropriately carry forward the process of implementing remote voting, according to a statement.
The poll panel has also floated a concept note on remote voting and sought the views of political parties on the legal, administrative and technological challenges in implementing it.
The multi-constituency remote EVM, developed by a public sector undertaking, can handle up to 72 constituencies from a single remote polling booth, the statement issued by the poll watchdog said. “After focus on youth and urban apathy, remote voting will be a transformational initiative for strengthening participation in electoral democracy,” Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Rajiv Kumar said.
With the objective of finding a technological solution that is credible, accessible and acceptable to all stakeholders, the commission headed by CEC “has now explored the option of using a modified version of the time-tested model of M3 (Mark 3) EVMs to enable voting at remote polling stations– polling stations outside home constituency, for domestic migrants,” the statement said.
Elaborating on the concept note, the EC said it has invited all eight recognised national and 57 state political parties on January 16 to demonstrate the functioning of the multi-constituency prototype RVM. Members of the commission’s Technical Expert Committee will also be present.
The commission has also solicited written views of recognised political parties by January 31 on various related issues, including changes required in legislation, changes in administrative procedures and voting method for domestic migrants.
The concept note also highlights the challenges of defining domestic migrants, enumerating remote voters and implementation of the Model Code of Conduct at remote polling booths in other states.
Ensuring secrecy of voting, facility of polling agents for identification of voters and process and method of remote voting and counting of votes, are among the other issues identified by the note.
The Representation of the People Act, 1950 and 1951, The Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, and The Registration of Electors Rules, 1960, will need to be amended to introduce remote voting, the statement said.
While the laws can only be changed by Parliament, the related rules in this case can be tweaked at the level of the Law Ministry. The number of booths to be set up and their locations also needs to be settled.