ECI ready to pilot remote voting for domestic migrants
New Delhi: Concerned about the issue of over 30 crore electors not exercising their franchise and also differential voter turnout in various States/Union Territories, the Election Commission of India has identified internal migration (domestic migrants) as one of the prominent reasons for voters’ inability to vote.
“Migration-based disenfranchisement is indeed not an option in the age of technological advancement,” the ECI stated today and stressed it needs to be addressed to improve voter turnout and ensure participative elections.
The Commission stated that in association with a Public Sector Undertaking, it is now ready to pilot a Multi Constituency Remote Electronic Voting Machine (RVM) for facilitating the participation of domestic migrants from their remote locations, that is the places of their current residence for purposes of education, employment, for voting for their home constituencies.
This modified form of EVM can handle up to 72 multiple constituencies from a single remote polling booth. The initiative, if implemented, can lead to a social transformation for the migrants and connect with their roots as many times they are reluctant to get themselves enrolled at their place of work for various reasons such as frequently changing residences, not enough social and emotional connect with the issues of an area of migration, unwillingness to get their name deleted in the electoral roll of their home/native constituencies as they have permanent residence/property etc.
A concept note has been circulated amongst political parties highlighting the challenges of defining domestic migrants, implementation of Model Code of Conduct, ensuring secrecy of voting, facility of polling agents for identification of voters, process and method of remote voting and counting of votes amongst other issues.
The Commission has invited all Recognised 08 National and 57 State Political Parties on January 16, 2023, to demonstrate the functioning of the multi-constituency prototype Remote EVM. The Technical Expert Committee members will also be present. The Commission has also solicited written views of recognised political parties by January 31, 2023, on various related issues including changes required in legislation, changes in administrative procedures and voting method/RVM/technology, if any other, for the domestic migrants.
Based on the feedback received from various stakeholders and the demonstration of the prototype, the Commission will appropriately carry forward the process of implementing the remote voting method.
Although there is no central database available for migration within the country, the analysis of available data in the public domain points to work, marriage and education-related migration as important components of domestic migration. Out-migration is predominant among the rural population in overall domestic migration. Approximately 85% of the internal migration is within the States.
Pointing out that the voter turnout in General Elections 2019 was 67.4%, the ECI stated that it is understood that there are multifarious reasons for a voter not opting to register in a new place of residence, thus missing out on exercising the right to vote.
While measures to empower the migrant voters to exercise their franchise from their current place of residence entail a host of legal, statutory, administrative and technological interventions, the ECI team has deliberated at length to find inclusive solutions to facilitate electoral participation of migrants across all socio-economic strata and explored alternative voting methods like two-way physical transit postal ballots, proxy voting, early voting at special Early Voting Centres, one-way or two-way electronic transmission of postal ballots (ETPBS), Internet-based voting system, among others.
It mentioned that soon after assuming office as Chief Election Commissioner, Rajiv Kumar’s learning of domestic migration issues firsthand from his trek to Dumak village in Chamoli district drew his attention to enabling the migrant voters to exercise their franchise from their current place of residence.
With the objective of finding a technological solution which is credible, accessible and acceptable to all stakeholders, the Commission headed by Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar along with Election Commissioners Anup Chandra Pandey and Arun Goel explored the option of using a modified version of the time-tested model of M3 EVMs to enable voting at remote polling stations i.e., polling stations outside the home constituency, for domestic migrants. The migrant voter would thus need not travel back to his/her home district to exercise his/her franchise of voting.
– global bihari bureau