Developing technology and processes to enable remote voting for those who are not in their constituencies can significantly help improve voter participation, said Umesh Sinha, Secretary-General, Election Commission of India, on Monday.
Addressing a webinar organised by Tamil Nadu e-Governance Agency and the EC, Mr. Sinha said that despite all efforts, voter participation had remained only around 67% in general elections.
A key factor contributing to this was the inability of the people, who had migrated from their native constituencies for various reasons, to vote. Unless structural changes in the election processes were made, it would be difficult to increase participation.
He said that while remote voting could help such people, including those outside the country, to vote from wherever they were, such a system must satisfy the highest standards of security and trustworthiness.
Highlighting how technology had been adopted in the election process, he pointed out how electoral rolls were in physical ledgers at the sub-district level just a decade ago. “Today, we have electoral rolls of 90 crore voters in a single portal and online services are provided for registration,” he said.
Arguing that evolving a technology might not be difficult, he said what was important was to ensure transparency and trustworthiness. “It is to improve trustworthiness in the electronic voting machines (EVMs) that we had to bring VVPAT (Voter-verified Paper Audit Trail),” he said. He lauded the IITs and other premier institutions working on remote voting.
‘Vote from anywhere’
Bhaskar Ramamurthi, Director, IIT Madras, stressed on the need for the new remote voting system to not deviate much from the present electoral process followed. He said the system must have mechanisms to gain confidence of not only the voters, but booth agents of parties and independent candidates as voters would be allowed to vote from anywhere.
Stating that a remote voting system would be a major step forward in enabling franchise for migrant population, he pointed out how students of his institution often expressed dissatisfaction over their inability to vote as they were away from home.
Rajat Moona, Director, IIT Bhilai, explained about the architecture of a remote voting system that could be developed, by using blockchain technology as well.
Jayesh Ranjan, Principal Secretary, Information Technology department, Telangana, spoke on the system implemented in his State to eliminate the need for pensioners to show up physically in a government office every year to show they were alive.
“The artificial intelligence, machine learning and face recognition tools used by us could possibly be of use voter verification as well,” he said.
Santosh Misra, chief executive officer, TNeGA, highlighted how technology, particularly blockchain, could transform government services.