Remote Voting for Migrants: EC initiative to boost voter turnout

The Election Commission is keen on introducing Remote Voting Machines (RVM) to domestic migrants. The official statement issued by the Election Commissioner of India, puts forward that it has developed a prototype that is ready for a demo. It introduces an electronic machine that is compatible with handling multiple constituencies from a single polling booth. 

Migration of people away from their place of residence can be driven by various reasons which include marriage, employment purposes, and also natural disasters. During elections, so many people cannot travel back to their hometowns to cast votes on the day of polling. This can be because of a lack of resources which in turn affects both the citizens and the nation as a whole.

According to the 2011 census, data shows that India has around 45.6 crores migrant population which is nearly 38% of the population in India. While these may be registered voters but their access to voting is unavailable due to their circumstances. 

Access to voting rights for migrant workers 

The initiative of introducing remote voting is ready for demonstration in various constituencies. The Election Commission introduces a Remote Electronic Voting machine (RVM), a technological move that is similar to the EVMs we use right now for voting. These voting machines are non-networked systems that will be set up in remote locations outside the state to help the voters to vote remotely. 

Remote Voting Machine has the unique feature that it can hold the votes of 72 constituencies in a single polling booth. This voting system was developed with the technical assistance of both the Electronics Corporation of India (ECIL) and Bharat Electronic Limited (BEL). 

There are a few changes made to the existing voting system, with this machine – instead of the usually printed paper for ballot sheets, it is introducing the ballot display board. The voter card issued will have the constituency number, according to which the prospective candidate’s list will be displayed. Barcode scanning is used for this purpose.

The Election Commission has asked the national and state political parties for their views and opinions in a written format by January 31.

Why is the opposition party against the move? 

There are nearly 16 political parties that are opposing the Election commission’s move for the inclusion of  migrants in the voting system.The opposition has often questioned the credibility of the EVMs after every election. Introducing another electronic voting machine based on similar lines, the concept of free and fair elections is questioned as a whole by Congress. 

Congress has lost trust in the election commission because of a lack of transparency on its part while conducting elections. Since remote voting has a different pattern of voting, it also changes the dynamics of elections and also the campaigning required for it. 

 The Election commission also identified challenges that can arise with this system. Defining the term ‘migrant’ will be difficult as there are people from different places in different situations as well. It is not uniform. The EC is yet to notify the criteria and time given for people to identify them as migrants. 

The Election Commission has taken a transformational step to include migrant workers in the voting system. Migrants are also citizens who cannot be denied their rights and duties as citizens of India. To ensure the proper working of democracy everyone needs to have access to their rights. The right to vote was never denied to the migrants but it was not made accessible. People’s participation and engagement in the working of a state ensure better policies for the development of a country as well as the people.  

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