By Arun Pratap Singh
Dehradun, 29 Dec: In what could be especially significant for a large number of Uttarakhandis living outside the state, the Election Commission of India has developed a prototype Remote Electronic Voting Machine (RVM) which can provide remote voting facility from their home town to citizens settled elsewhere in the country. This machine will enable overseas voters to vote for their home/native constituency from anywhere. The Commission has invited all the recognised 8 National and 57 State parties on 16 January, 2023, to demonstrate the working of the Multi-Constituency Prototype Remote EVMs (RVMs). Members of the Technical Expert Committee of the Commission will also be present on this occasion. The Commission has also requested the recognised political parties to submit written representations by 31 January, 2023, on various related matters including required legal changes, changes in administrative procedures and voting method/RVM/technology for domestic overseas voters, if any.
Meanwhile, reacting to the move by the Election Commission, Congress spokesman Jairam Ramesh today opposed the move and expressed serious reservations in this respect.
It may be recalled that this idea had struck the Election Commission of India when Chief Election Commissioner Rajeev Kumar was touring a remote polling station in Dumak village of district Chamoli in Uttarakhand. The villagers had made Kumar aware of the fact that most villagers from the area live outside the state and are unable to exercise their franchise. In response to the villagers’ concern, Kumar had pointed out the need for a facility to enable migrant voters to exercise their franchise from their present place of posting or residence. Kumar had visited Uttarakhand and some of its remote areas soon after taking over as Chief Election Commissioner.
Based on the feedback received from various stakeholders and the performance of the prototype, the Commission will take forward the process of implementing the remote voting system in a suitable manner.
This move, if implemented, may have special significance in the context of Uttarakhand. Lakhs of people here live in different parts of the country for reasons of employment, business, education, etc. With remote voting, they will be able to vote for their home area and participate in the development process there.
Social Activist from Dehradun, Anoop Nautiyal has also welcomed the initiative by the Election Commission. Speaking to Garhwal Post, he termed it a major electoral reform that had far reaching consequences. He also described the move as a potential game changer for states like Uttarakhand that had low voter turnout in hill areas due to migration.
A comprehensive discussion on remote voting has been started by the Election Commission of India. Legal, statutory, administrative and technological initiatives are needed to implement such empowerment. The Commission headed by Kumar along with Election Commissioners Anoop Chandra Pandey and Arun Goyal had sought inclusive solutions to enable the electoral participation of migrants at all socio-economic levels and alternate methods of voting such as two-way direct transit postal ballots, proxy voting, special early polling station. All the options like early voting, one-way or two-way electronic transmission of postal ballots (ETPBS), internet based voting system, etc., were discussed in detail.
With the objective of finding a reliable, accessible and acceptable technological solution for all stakeholders, the Commission headed by Chief Election Commissioner Shri Rajeev Kumar along with Election Commissioner Shri Anoop Chandra Pandey Commission and Election Commissioner Shri Arun Goyal has launched Remote Voting for Domestic Overseas Voters. To enable polling from the centres, an option has been explored to use a modified version of the time-tested M-3 EVM model. In this way, the migrant voters need not travel back to the home district to exercise their franchise.