EC plans pilot project to facilitate remote voting for migrant workers
New Delhi: The Election Commission of India has decided to set up a committee to explore the possibility of allowing migrant workers to vote remotely on a pilot basis, the poll body said in a statement on Tuesday.
According to an EC official there needs to be a concerted effort to see what the problems that migrant workers face. “We need to see what kind of technologies can be used to facilitate that,” the official said.
Chief election commissioner Rajiv Kumar and election commissioner Anup Chandra Pandey visited the remote polling station in Dumak village and Kalgoth village in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, after walking over 50 kilometers. “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 the much awaited leap forward to facilitate remote voting by migrant voters,” the Commission’s statement said.
“The wider consultation with all stakeholders including political parties will be started after receipt of the report,” the press statement added.
The Commission has been considering the possibility of remote voting and allowing people to cast the ballot from their place of work. The Commission has decided to try the project on a pilot basis, according to the statement. “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 Commission felt that time has come to explore possibilities of remote voting, maybe on a pilot basis. A Committee would be set up to examine the issues of migrant voters,” the statement added.
There are nearly 10 million migrant workers, which is for the unorganised sector, registered with the government’s e-SHRAM portal. If the remote voting project is implemented, it will have far reaching ramifications.
The Election Commission of India (ECI) set up a four-member panel to assess the technology landscape to enable remote voting, in 2020.
The panel, which consists of members from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Bhilai, IIT-Bombay, IIT-Madras and the National Informatics Centre, has presented a concept plan to the ECI to enable a two-way transfer of vote and ballot. According to the Rajat Moona, director IIT-Bhilai, the panel is in the process of finalising the decision of the remote voting machine. “We have already presented twice, but now the final presentation is left, he said.
The panel is advising the ECI’s IT division on various aspects such as electoral rolls and storing, as the dependence on technology in the conduct of elections increases.
Currently, postal ballots are meant only for service voters such as army personnel who cannot return to vote.
The Commission has also doubled the remuneration of the officials going to the remote polling stations three days in advance doubled.
The Commission has also under voting apathy in urban areas. According to the statement, Commission noted with concern the abysmally low voter turnout in some of the metropolitan/city areas despite the fact that polling stations are setup within 2km for any voter in urban areas. The need to address voting apathy in urban areas was felt.
“The Commission decided to undertake focused awareness activities in this respect, the Commission also took note of the fact that under the Negotiable Instruments Act, the polling day is declared as a holiday for all workplaces with the primary purpose of facilitating voting by the employees. All Central/ State Government Departments / CPSUs/ State PSUs and Corporate entities with 500 plus employees shall appoint a nodal officer to ascertain leave availing but non-voting employees. Special Voter Education and Electoral Participation Awareness sessions would be held for such non-voting members of these organizations,” the statement said.
Moreover, the poll body has directed all deputy electoral officers and returning officers to identify at least the 5 lowest voter turnout booths in each assembly constituency. “They shall visit these booths to identify factors for low voting turnout and take targeted interventions to mitigate the factors hampering the voting process,” the Commission said.