EC to look at remote voting for migrant voters on pilot basis

The Election Commission of India (EC) on Tuesday said it will start exploring possibilities of remote voting on a pilot basis.

The poll panel also said a committee will be set up to examine issues of migrant voters; This committee will seek consultation from political parties as well.

The EC has been thinking over the concept of remote voting over the last few years. On November 12 last year, The Indian Express had reported that the Election Commission plans to start mapping the population of migrant workers across the country to prepare a road map to introduce remote voting.

“Voters migrate from the place of their registration to cities and other places for education, employment and other purposes. It becomes difficult for them to return to their registered polling stations to cast their vote,” the EC said in a statement on Tuesday. “The Commission felt that time has come to explore possibilities of remote voting, maybe on a pilot basis.”

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It stated that a committee will be set up to examine the issues of migrant voters. “Given the fact that voters and political parties are the primary stakeholders, the wider consultation with all stakeholders, including political parties, would be started thereafter,” the Commission stated.

In a meeting on Tuesday, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Rajiv Kumar was informed that “remote areas such as Dumak village had a 71.14% voter turnout and Kalgoth village recorded 80.45% voter turnout in recent elections,” the statement mentioned.

CEC Kumar had trekked nearly 18 km to some of Uttarakhand’s most remote polling booths in Chamoli district in the recent Assembly polls to assess challenges faced by election officials — he had visited both Dumak and Kalgoth, and interacted with both villagers and polling parties there.


What, why remote voting?

Remote voting refers to a mechanism that allows electors to vote from locations other than polling stations assigned to their registered constituencies — either within the country or even abroad — as the Election Commission focusses on the importance of “inclusiveness” in polls. With lakhs of voters unable to exercise their franchise on account of geographical barrier due to different reasons, remote voting aims to bridge that gap.

In these remote villages, the EC stated, “female voters participated in equal numbers. It was further noted that in villages like Dumak and Kalgoth, about 20-25% registered voters are unable to cast their vote in their constituencies as they are required to move out of their village/state broadly on account of their jobs or educational pursuits. “

“This situation opens up the opportunity to explore possibilities of (a) much awaited leap forward to facilitate remote voting by migrant voters,” the EC added.

In its statement, the poll panel noted that in contrast, during the 2019 General Election quite a few urban areas saw poor voter turnout of less than 50%.

“The Commission noted with concern the abysmally low voter turnout in some of the metropolitan/city areas despite the fact that polling stations are set up within 2 km for any voter in urban areas. The need to address voting apathy in urban areas was felt,” it said.

Election Commissioner Anup Chandra Pandey also participated in Tuesday’s meeting.

The EC has been working with IIT-Madras on using Blockchain technology for remote voting. A technical advisory committee has also been formed, which is headed by IIT-Bhilai director Prof Rajat Moona, who is also the former director-general of the Center for Development of Advanced Computing, and comprising experts from IIT-Delhi, IIT-Bombay, IIT-Madras and Election Commission officials.

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