Migrant Workers to Cast Vote Remotely – Plan of EC

30 December, 2022 | Pranay Lad

migrant National

Many people are unable to cast ballots because they can't go back to their home districts on election day. The Election Commission will assist them in the following ways.

In order to save domestic migrants the trouble of having to go back to their home states, the Election Commission (EC) said on Thursday that it is prepared to trial remote voting. This follows EC’s recognition of disenfranchised due to migration. In a message to the media, the EC stated that it hoped to enhance India’s democratic process by increasing voter turnout through this action

According to the commissions’s announcement, a prototype for a Multi-Constituency Remote Electronic Voting Machine (RVM) has been created that can manage several constituencies from a single remote polling station.

The EC has invited all eight recognised national parties and 57 recognised state parties to a demonstration of the RVM on January 16 and has requested their written opinions by January 31.

This article dives straight into the rationale behind this decision, the EC’s suggested remedy, how RVMs may operate, and certain issues that require attention.

The issue: disenfranchisement based on migration

While there are many reasons why registered voters don’t actually cast their ballots, domestic migration is a significant one in the Indian context.

There are over 45.36 crore migrants in India (both intra and interstate), according to the 2011 census (the numbers will have increased since then), making up almost 37% of the total population. Marriage, natural disasters, work, and other factors can all be factors in migration.

In spite of their desire to cast a ballot, voters who are not present at their home locations on election day are unable to do so for a variety of reasons, according to EC’s concept note for RVMs. This indicates that a sizable portion of the population is denied their franchise because of the demands of their jobs or a lack of transportation resources. The EC’s policy of “No voter left behind” is blatantly violated by this.

In order to better understand this problem, the EC established a “Committee of Officers on Domestic Migrants,” which, after studying a number of potential solutions, including online voting, proxy voting, early voting, and postal ballots for migrant workers, published a report in late 2016. All of these concepts were, however, rejected for various reasons, including concerns with accessibility for voters who are not literate, a lack of vote confidentiality, a disregard for the one person, one vote principle, etc.

Consequently, a technical solution was put out that depends on the development of a reliable electoral roll and identification methods (to prevent double voting), and enables voters to cast ballots remotely in a secure setting.

Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and Electronics Corporation of India Limited contributed to the development of the RVM (ECIL). It is based on the EVM system that is currently in use.

Although EC’s presentation on January 16 will go into further depth about the technology, the concept note provides a good overview of what RVMs would look like.

The voter will virtually have the same experience using the RVMs as they would with the present EVMs since they are “stand-alone, non-networked devices.” They will be put up in distant areas outside the state under identical circumstances to the ones that are now polling booths.

The distinguishing characteristic of RVMs is that, unlike EVMs, which typically use printed paper vote sheets, a single Remote Ballot Unit (RBU) may serve as many as 72 constituencies by employing a “dynamic ballot display board.” Depending on the constituency number read from the voter’s constituency card, the required candidates will be displayed on the Ballot Unit Overlay Display (BUOD). To read these cards, a barcode scanning device will be employed.

After a voter’s identification has been confirmed, their constituency card will be read and the candidates’ information will be shown on a public display. Additionally, this will be shown in private on the RVM’s RBU’s BUOD.

The voter will next cast their ballot, and each vote will be recorded in the voting machine’s control unit according to the constituency.

The new technology is anticipated to operate similarly to the VVPAT system.

The EC itself has admitted that the system has certain flaws.

First off, migrants are a diverse group with a variety of identities, environments, and circumstances. The challenge for the EC in light of the transient nature of migration in India is to provide an inclusive definition of migrants while also preventing systemic abuse. Are all immigrants eligible to vote? How long must a migrant reside away from home to be eligible?

Resolution of this matter “would need further talks with various legal and political players,” according to the EC’s statement.

Second, how do RVMs join the discourse given the rising number of inquiries regarding technology-based voting? Does the refusal of EVMs in some nations in favour of paper ballots have the ability to cast greater doubt on the integrity of the voting process itself? RVMs, according to the EC, are just as secure as EVMs that are now in use, but adding new technological elements will inevitably generate more concerns.

Third, how do elections and campaigns being affected by distant voting? Theoretically, remote voting might give larger parties and more wealthy candidates who can fund extensive campaigning an advantage in a field that is far from even.