New Delhi: The Election Commission is collaborating with IIT Madras to work on a new technology that will allow you to vote from far away locations without having to go to a polling station.
Senior deputy election commissioner Sandeep Saxena explained how this works: "Suppose there is a Lok Sabha election and a Chennai voter is in Delhi. Instead of going to Chennai to vote in his or her constituency, the voter can reach a predesignated spot set up by the Election Commission (EC), say in Connaught Place, and cast his vote there."
However, it does not mean voting from home, he hastened to add. A voter will have to go to a designated venue at a pre-decided time to be able to use the facility.
The project, still in the R&D stage, will use block chain technology.
It will have a two-way electronic voting system that works on white-listed IP devices on dedicated internet lines, enabled with biometric devices and a web camera.
The remote voting process would require voter identification and authorisation using a multi-layered IT-enabled system working on the Election Commission's electoral registration officer network (ERONet) using biometrics and web cameras.
After a voter's identity is established by the system, a block chain-enabled personalised e-ballot paper (Smart Contract) will be generated.
When the vote is cast (Smart Contract executed), the ballot would be securely encrypted and a block chain hashtag (#) will be generated. This hashtag notification would be sent to various stakeholders, in this case--the candidates and political parties, Saxena said.
The encrypted remote votes so cast will once again be validated in the pre-counting stage to ensure that they have neither been decrypted, nor tampered with or replaced.
Voters may have to apply in advance to the returning officers to opt for remote voting.
Another top Election Commission functionary, who refused to be quoted, said at present it is only an R&D project.
If the technology is found to be okay, then only after stakeholder consultations and changes in the election laws and rules will it be tried in actual conditions, he said.
There have been demands from various parties that the Election Commission should ensure that migrant workers should be allowed to vote for their constituency from the city they are working in.
A bill to allow proxy voting for overseas Indians had lapsed following the dissolution of the previous Lok Sabha.
The Law Ministry recently tweaked election rules to allow One Way Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System (ETPBS), enabling service voters consisting of personnel belonging to the armed forces, central paramilitary forces and central government officers deployed at Indian missions abroad, to get their postal ballots electronically. They have to fill up the ballot papers and post them back.
During the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the ETPBS system helped such service voters in participating overwhelmingly in the polls, with a turnout of almost 62 per cent which used to be dismally low in single digits earlier.