In a bid to help the domestic migrants to vote from remote locations instead of taking the pain to travel to their own homes for voting, the Election Commission of India says has come up with a Multi Constituency Remote Electronic Voting Machine (RVM) for facilitating their participation in ythe democratic process.
RVM AND ITS CAPABILITY
In association with a Public Sector Undertaking, the modified form of EVM can handle up to 72 multiple constituencies from a single remote polling booth. The initiative, if implemented, can lead to a social transformation for the migrants and connect with their roots as many times they are reluctant to get themselves enrolled at their place of work for various reasons. They never enrol in such places because of frequently changing residences, not enough social and emotional connect with the issues of area of migration, unwillingness to get their name deleted in electoral roll of their home/native constituencies as they have permanent residence/property.
The Commission has invited all recognised National and State Political Parties on January 16, 2023 to demonstrate the functioning of the multi-constituency prototype Remote EVM. The Commission has also solicited written views of recognised political parties by January 31, 2023. on various related issues including changes required in legislation, changes in administrative procedures and voting method/RVM/technology, if any other, for the domestic migrants.
Based on the feedback received from various stakeholders and demonstration of the prototype, the Commission will appropriately carry forward the process of implementing remote voting method.
A concept note has been circulated amongst political parties (https://eci.gov.in/files/file/14714-letter-to-political-parties-on-discussion-on-improving-voter-participation-of-domestic-migrant-using-remote-voting/ )
highlighting the challenges of defining domestic migrants, implementation of Model Code of Conduct, ensuring secrecy of voting, facility of polling agents for identification of voters, process and method of remote voting and counting of votes amongst other issues.
Migration based disenfranchisement is indeed not an option in the age of technological advancement. The voter turnout in General Elections 2019 was 67.4 % and the Election Commission of India is concerned about the issue of over 30 Crore electors not exercising their franchise and also differential voter turnout in various States/UTs. It is understood that there are multifarious reasons for a voter not opting to register in a new place of residence, thus missing out on exercising the right to vote. Inability to vote due to internal migration (domestic migrants) is one of the prominent reasons to be addressed to improve voter turnout and ensure participative elections. Although there is no central database available for migration within the country, the analysis of available data in public domain points to work, marriage and education related migration as important components of domestic migration. Out-migration is predominant among the rural population in overall domestic migration. Approximately 85% of the internal migration is within the States.
THE MOVE AHEAD
Soon after assuming office as Chief Election Commissioner Kumar learning of domestic migration issues first hand from his trek to Dumas village in Chamomile district, focused his attention on enabling the migrant voters to exercise their franchise from their current place of residence. Realising such empowerment would entail a host of legal, statutory, administrative and technological interventions, ECI team has deliberated at length to find inclusive solutions to facilitate electoral participation of migrants across all socio-economic strata and explored alternative voting methods like two-way physical transit postal ballots, proxy voting, early voting at special Early Voting Centres, one-way or two-way electronic transmission of postal ballots (ETPBS), Internet-based voting system etc.
With the objective of finding a technological solution which is credible, accessible and acceptable to all stakeholders, the Commission headed by Chief Election Commissioner Shri Rajiv Kumar along with Election Commissioners Shri Anup Chandra Pandey and Shri Arun Goel has now explored the option of using a modified version of the time-tested model of M3 EVMs to enable voting at remote polling stations i.e., polling stations outside home constituency, for domestic migrants. The migrant voter would thus need not travel back to his/her home district to exercise his/her franchise of voting.