NEW DELHI: In yet another first in Narendra Modi’s New India, the Election Commission has developed a Remote Electronic Voting Machine (REVM) that would enable Indian citizens to cast their vote while working away from home.
The epoch-making move represents a giant leap in India’s pursuit of inclusion and accessibility in its 70-year-old history of democratic elections. It also sets an example that other democratic nations could follow.
While migrant workers’ inability to participate in electoral process has been under discussion ever since electronic voting machines (EVMs) were introduced in India, the EC now wants to test the prototype machine it has built to enable remote voting by migrants for their home constituencies from polling stations in the places they work in.
According to the 2011 Census, 37 per cent of the people in India are migrants. It’s a hassle for them to return to their home state to exercise their franchise, even as postal ballot has met with a lukewarm response over the years. Their failure to do the needful adversely impacts the voter turnout.
Demo on January 16
The EC has invited the eight recognised national and 57 state political parties on January 16 to demonstrate the functioning of the REVM and has also sought written views from them on various aspects of the matter by January 31. While immediate reaction of the opposition parties to the proposal is divided, political scientists in India agree that the EC move would lead to increased voter participation.
In the recent Gujarat Assembly elections, the turnout was 4 per cent, lower than that recorded in the 2017 state polls. Himachal Pradesh’s vote percentage this time was only marginally higher compared to the previous Assembly elections. With nine states going to the polls this year, followed by the General Election in 2024, the facility of remote voting can boost the involvement of migrants in the electoral process.
But there are legal, administrative and technological challenges to be dealt with before introducing the remote EVMs. The task of identifying the migrants and enumerating them is onerous. The implementation of the Model Code of Conduct at remote polling booths in other states won’t be easy either.
Test of credibility
The remote EVMs also have to pass the test of credibility and acceptability among all stakeholders. Allegations about the EVMs’ vulnerability to being hacked or tampered with are made every now and then, but these are yet to be substantiated by concrete evidence. Amid the occasional hue and cry, the EVM system in the world’s largest democracy has by and large proved to be reliable and robust.