EC proposes remote voting for inter-state migrants | India News

NEW DELHI: In a major step towards making elections more inclusive, the Election Commission on Thursday proposed introduction of ‘remote voting’ for domestic migrants, using a multi-constituency electronic voting machine (EVM) that will retain all security features of the EVMs currently in use.
Domestic migrants currently face disenfranchisement due to their inability to travel back to the polling stations where they are registered as voters — as required by the existing laws and rules — on account of factors like work, educational pursuits and marriage.
“Remote voting is a fundamental reboot for an inclusive and participative democracy,” chief election commissioner Rajiv Kumar told TOI and added that the EC remains focused on addressing factors that kept around 30 crore electors from voting in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. “These include urban apathy, youth apathy and migration-based disenfrachisement.”
The ‘remote voting’ facility — on which a concept paper was circulated to all recognised national and state parties on Thursday — will be unveiled with the new EVM prototype that can poll and record votes of electors registered in multiple constituencies, at a polling station away from the assembly or parliamentary constituency for which the election is being held. This modified form of EVM, or remote voting machines (RVM), will be standalone and non-networked and, thus, tamper-proof. Each RVM deployed at special multi-constituency polling stations to be set up in remote locations, can handle voting for up to 72 constituencies.
The working of the RVM will be demonstrated to representatives of all recognised parties on January 16, followed by submission of their comments and suggestions by January 31 on the legal, procedural and statutory aspects of remote voting. Incidentally, Congress was the first to react to the proposal, with Jairam Ramesh writing to EC on Thursday that any further improvisation would add to the mistrust in EVMs.
After the suggestions received from the parties are considered, the remote voting option will be introduced on a pilot basis in an upcoming state election. However, this can be done only after the election laws and rules are amended to provide for remote voting with the provision of a ‘remote returning officer’ and the definitions of migrant voter and remote voting are arrived at. Procedural issues like method of enumeration of remote-voters, ensuring secrecy of voting and setting up of remote booths will have to be worked out, as also the norms for counting of votes cast at remote booths.
Sources said a remote voting model already exists for Kashmiri migrants, with booths set up for them at remote locations at their place of residence, during parliamentary and assembly polls in J&K.
The remote voting initiative, if implemented, can lead to a social transformation for migrants and connect with their roots as they are often reluctant to get themselves enrolled at their place of work for various reasons such as frequently changing residences, not enough social and emotional connect with the issues of the area of migration and unwillingness to get their name deleted from electoral rolls of their home/native constituencies where they have a permanent residence/property, EC said on Thursday.
Under Section 19 of the Representation of the People Act, 1950, a person can be enrolled as a voter in a constituency where he is ordinarily resident. In case, he migrates to another constituency, he must fill up a voter enrolment form at the new place and request that his name be deleted from the roll of the constituency where he was earlier registered. On the day of the poll, the voter is required to cast his vote in the constituency where he is registered. Postal ballot option exists, but is limited to service voters, foreign mission staff, those engaged in essential services, 80 years-plus citizens, persons with disabilities and Covid-positive voters.
Census 2011 had put the number of migrants in India at 45.4 crore (37% of total population), with 75% of them having migrated on account of marriage or family-related reasons. Around 85% of internal migration is within the respective states, with rural outmigration being dominant.

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