India’s new proposal for migrant voting

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    • Recently, ECI proposed a new Remote Electronic Voting Machine (RVM) that would allow domestic migrants to vote in national and regional elections.

    What is RVM?

    • The Remote Electronic Voting Machine (RVM) is the proposed new voting system in India that would allow domestic migrants to vote in national and regional elections
    • The RVM is being developed by the Election Commission of India (ECI)
    • These are similar to the existing EVMs in terms of security system and voting experience.
    • RVMs can handle multiple constituencies (up to 72) from a single remote polling booth.
    • Instead of a fixed ballot paper sheet, the RVM has been modified to have an electronic dynamic ballot display which will present different candidate lists corresponding to the constituency number of the voter read by a constituency card reader.
    • An additional digital public display unit or a monitor to act as an interface between the constituency card reader and the Ballet Unit(BU) display.
    • The electronic ballot will be prepared by the Returning Officers (ROs) of home constituencies of voters, and forwarded to the remote RO for uploading in the Symbol Loading Unit(SLU).

    The ECI has, however, not yet demonstrated a prototype of the RVM.

    EVMs in India

    • About:
      • Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) are a system of voting used in India for national and regional elections
      • EVMs have been in use in India on a larger scale since 1992, with the latest version being the M3 model, which has been in use since 2013
      • In 2010, multiple political parties approached the ECI to develop a mechanism to verify that EVMs recorded votes correctly, leading to the development of the Voter Verified Paper Trail Audit (VVPAT) machine, which has been in use since mid-2017
    • Working of EVM:
      • The current EVM setup includes a Balloting Unit (BU) and a VVPAT printer, both inside the voting compartment, and a Control Unit (CU) with the Presiding Officer (PO) that totals the number of votes cast.
      • The VVPAT is connected to the Control Unit (CU), which sits with the Presiding Officer (PO) and totals the number of votes cast, on its display board
    • The VVPAT, which is essentially a printing machine, prints a slip with the poll symbol and candidate name, once the voter presses the key on the BU. 
    • This slip is visible to the voter on the VVPAT’s glass screen for seven seconds after which it gets dropped off in a box inside the VVPAT.
    • The use of VVPATs has become universal in elections since mid-2017.

    Advantages of EVMs

    Challenges with EVMs

    • EVMs have significantly reduced the instances of booth capturing, electoral malpractice, and rigging
    • They have led to a faster counting process as they eliminate the need for manual counting of votes and thus reduces the possibility of human error
    • EVMs are tamper-proof and prevent the manipulation of vote counts
    • It allows for faster and more efficient transmission of election results
    • They eliminate the need for paper ballots which can save resources and reduce the amount of waste generated
    • They are more accessible for people with disabilities or older citizens and reduce the barrier for these groups to participate in the electoral process
    • These have been credited for increasing voter turnout in many areas
    • These are more secure than paper ballots as it eliminates the possibility of voter fraud
    • EVMs with VVPAT (Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail) allows for a paper trail of the vote which ensures transparency and improves the credibility of the election. 
    • The lack of transparency in the design, prototype, software, and hardware of EVMs.
    • They are available only for black-box analysis and not accessible for technical and independent review,thus raising doubts and mistrust among citizens in the electoral process.
    • The requirement of reliable electricity and power supply to operate EVMs.
    • The need for proper maintenance and security of EVMs to ensure they are not tampered with or damaged before or during an election.
    • The cost of purchasing and maintaining EVMs can be high, which can be a burden for some countries with limited financial resources.
    • The possibility of power outages, network failures, or other technical issues during voting.
    • The need for a robust system of voter education and voter awareness of their rights and responsibilities as voters.
    • The lack of accessibility for citizens who are not literate or are visually impaired.

    Way Forward

    • RVM is a great decision in the right direction to address issues of accessibility and convenience for domestic migrants who may not be able to physically travel to their voting location.
    • However, there is a need to address the logistical and administrative challenges of remote voting, and thus, ECI should work to restore trust in the electoral system” and address fears of the misuse of existing EVMs.

    Source: TH