Election commission’s tech advisory panel to assess options for remote voting

Published on Sep 12, 2020 02:47 PM IST

The group is advising the ECI’s IT division on various aspects such as electoral rolls and storing

The tech advisory group is exploring a spectrum of options, including blockchain technology to enable remote voting.(Representational Photo/Getty Images)
The tech advisory group is exploring a spectrum of options, including blockchain technology to enable remote voting.(Representational Photo/Getty Images)
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByDeeksha Bhardwaj

The Election Commission of India (ECI)’s four-member tech advisory group will assess “technological alternatives and the landscape” to enable remote voting, its members told Hindustan Times.

The panel, which comprises people from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bhilai, IIT Bombay, IIT Madras and the National Informatics Centre, is gearing up to present a concept plan to the Commission to enable a two-way transfer of vote and ballot in the next two months.

The panel was set up four months ago, professor Rajat Moona, director, IIT Bhilai, and former chief of the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing, told Hindustan Times.

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“The tech advisory group is exploring a spectrum of options, including blockchain technology to enable remote voting,” said Moona.

They have been holding regular meetings to address the issue. “We are hoping to demonstrate a prototype in the next two months, then the Commission will take a call.”

However, many concerns will have to be addressed before virtual casting of votes can be implemented for elections, said sources. “The remote voting exercise is not only for academic purposes,” the source said. “The machines will have to be flexible and ensure privacy and security of the vote.”

The source added that the group is advising the ECI’s IT division on various aspects such as electoral rolls and storing, as the elections’ dependence on technology increases. “The idea is that going forward, everything should have the backing of experts.”

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The ECI has already conducted two webinars on the issue and is looking to conduct a third one on network and security later this month.

There are a sizeable number of voters, such as migrant labourers and students, who will benefit from the move.

“The question of remote voting came up when we talked about whether postal ballots can have a two-way transfer system,” said Moona. At present, postal ballots, meant for service voters such as army personnel who cannot travel for the elections, are sent electronically, but the reply is received via post.

“There will be logistical challenges, but we are working on it,” Moona added.

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