(GS2- Salient feature of Representation of People Act)
Recently, the EC proposed using isolated remote voting machines to enable voters who are residents elsewhere to vote in their home constituencies.
- RVM is a modified version of the existing Electronic Voting Machine (EVM).
- The special remote polling booths would be set up in different states when elections are on in the home state of migrants.
- The RVM can handle multiple constituencies from a single remote polling booth.
- For this, instead of a fixed ballot paper sheet, the machine 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.
- The system would have a device similar to the so voters can verify their votes.
- The units will save the number of votes for each candidate for each of the constituencies, to be tallied on counting day.
What are issues with the proposed remote voting machines?
- It will have to ensure that all applicants for remote voting are able to do so without hindrance, and all applications are processed fairly without selective exclusions.
- There is a need to ensure that all applications and the decisions on them are publicly verifiable, from both remote and home locations. This can only be done with verifiable zero-trust technology that is linked to digitisation of the electoral rolls. It requires a thorough examination.
- Second, it needs to ensure that a person allowed to vote remotely is invalidated for local voting. The two lists will be at different locations. So, the correctness will not be easy to demonstrate in a publicly verifiable way.
- There is a need to decide the place for consolidation and counting of both the electronic votes and the VVPAT slips. It needs to decide whether counting happens at the remote location, or at the home constituency after consolidation. In the former case, disclosing the remote voting results will compromise vote secrecy.
- There are questions regarding polling agents at remote locations and their accountability.
- Under the current system, if the voter disputes what they have seen behind the screen, they are allowed a test vote in the presence of an election officer, and if the outcome of the test vote is correct, the voter can be penalized or even prosecuted. The same may persist with remote voting.
Need for Remote Voting:
- Decrease in Voting Turnout: In 2019 general election, over 91% of its eligible citizens were registered with 67% of them coming out to vote, which is the highest voter turnout in the nation’s history. It is, however, worrying that a third of the eligible voters, a whopping 30 crore people, do not vote.
- Internal Migration: One of the reasons for less voter turnout remained the internal migration that took electors away from their home constituencies.
- Supreme Court’s Direction: Supreme Court (SC) had in 2015 directed the EC to explore options for remote voting.
- Increasing Registrations of Unorganised Workers: 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.
- For the voting process to be verifiable and correct, it should be machine-independent, or software and hardware independent, meaning, the establishment of its veracity should not depend solely on the assumption that the EVM is correct.
- The “voter should have full agency to cancel a vote if not satisfied; and that the process to cancel must be simple and should not require the voter to interact with anybody”.