GS Paper 2
Syllabus: Powers, Functions and Responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies
Direction: The article covers Multi-Constituency Remote Electronic Voting Machine (RVM) – need, unique features, the voting process and issues raised by the EC itself.
Context: The EC announced that it has developed a prototype for a Multi-Constituency Remote Electronic Voting Machine (RVM), amid concerns over migration-based disenfranchisement, to boost voter turnout and strengthen India’s democratic process.
Background – The problem of migration-based disenfranchisement:
- While registered voters do not end up voting for a variety of reasons, domestic migration – is driven by marriage, natural disasters, employment, etc.
- As per the 2011 census, there are nearly 45.36 crores (forty-five point three six) migrants in India (both intra and interstate) – nearly 37% of the country’s population.
- These migrants are unable to travel to vote, denying a large chunk of the population its franchise, going against the EC’s motto – “No voter left behind”.
- The EC had formed a Committee of Officers on Domestic Migrants, which recommended (in 2016) internet voting, proxy voting, early voting and postal ballots for migrant workers (rejected due to concerns like lack of secrecy of the vote, the lack of sanctity of one person one vote principle, issues of accessibility, etc.)
- Thus, a technological solution was proposed which allows voters to vote remotely, in a safe and controlled environment.
The proposed solution – Remote EVMs:
- RVMs were developed by Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and the Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL).
- The RVMs are stand-alone, non-networked systems, allowing voters from multiple constituencies to vote using the same machine.
- They will be set up in remote locations outside the state under similar conditions as current polling booths.
Unique feature of RVMs:
- A single Remote Ballot Unit (RBU): To cater to multiple constituencies (as many as 72) by using a “dynamic ballot display board” instead of the usually printed paper ballot sheet on EVMs.
- Ballot Unit Overlay Display (BUOD): It will show the requisite candidates based on the constituency number read on the voter’s Constituency card, which can be read by a barcode scanning system.
The voting process:
- After verifying a voter’s identity, their constituency card will be read with a public display showing the constituency details and candidates.
- This will also be displayed privately (on the BUOD in the RVM’s RBU) and the voter will then vote and each vote will be stored constituency-wise in the control unit.
- The voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) system is expected to work along the same lines as the new technology.
- The system has issues, some of which the EC has itself acknowledged. For example,
- Migrants are not a uniform and defined class, with fluid identities, locations and situations.
- As various countries reject EVMs for paper-based ballots, this move may have the potential to raise further questions on the sanctity of the electoral process itself.
- Remote voting can theoretically provide an added edge to bigger parties and richer candidates who can campaign across the constituency and beyond.
Resolving these issues will require wider consultations with various legal and political stakeholders.
Conclusion: The EC has invited all recognised eight national and 57 state political parties on January 16 to demonstrate the functioning of the RVM and has asked for their written views by January 31.
Insta Links: VVPAT
Q. In the light of recent controversy regarding the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM), what are the challenges before the Election Commission of India to ensure the trustworthiness of elections in India? (UPSC 2018)
Prelims Links: (UPSC 2017)