The Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) has just got smarter. It not only does the obvious, record your vote, but also notes the exact time you cast it. The new and improved machines will also give hourly updates of balloting.
Amol Newaskar, general manager of Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), Bangalore, which is one of the two public sector companies manufacturing EVMs for the Election Commission, said the machines which have been supplied for the April-May elections have more improvised features than the older ones.
"BEL has been manufacturing EVMs for a long time and since 2000 we have supplied 650,000 EVMs. However, the ones manufactured from 2007 onwards - which will be used in the April-May general elections - have improvised features like in-built clocks which record the exact time a ballot is cast," Newaskar told IANS on phone from Bangalore.
"Not just that, the EVM also records the exact time when the whole balloting process starts and when the last vote is being cast. It gives an hourly update of the number of votes cast, and if there is any unusual trend in the process, it can be easily detected. Thus the whole process becomes tamper-proof," he added.
For instance, if there is a heavy rush in polling at a particular hour, the officials can be on alert or if a voter thinks that his vote is being tampered with, the exact time when he cast his vote can be retrieved.
The Election Commission, according to Newaskar, placed an order for 102,000 EVMs to BEL for the 2009 general elections - all of which have been supplied by January.
Besides BEL, the other company authorised by the Election Commission to manufacture EVMs is the Hyderabad-based Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL). Both the companies supply an almost equal number of EVMs.
According to KS Rajasekhara Rao, chairman of ECIL, they have supplied 78,000 machines with the improvised features to the Election Commission.
"We have to supply another 3,000 EVMs by March 31," Rao said.
Explaining some of the new features of the machine, Newaskar said: "The new EVMs are also more user-friendly. Earlier most of the instructions on the machine were printed in short form which was not easily understood, but now more images are used instead," he said.
For the benefit of the visually impaired, the EVMs also have Braille markings on them.
"So that a visually impaired person does not have any trouble in casting his or her vote, Braille markings have been made close to the serial number of the candidates. Since 2007, we have manufactured 250,000 such EVMs with Braille markings," Newaskar said.
The new EVMs, he added, also have a better battery life. If a machine is not used for 10 minutes, it goes on sleep mode and shows in its indicator if the charge is low. Data however is not lost in either case.
Each EVM costs about Rs 9,800, inclusive of taxes. An estimated 1.36 million electronic voting machines will be used in 828,000 polling booths across this vast country.
The Indian government has also supplied 500 EVMs to Nepal and is in talks with Namibia which wants 500,000 units.