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Updated: January 31, 2013 12:10 IST

Voting to get ‘smarter’in next panchayat polls

K. P. M. Basheer
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SEC is working to put e-voting in place for the 2015 polls

If everything goes well, you can cast your ballot in the 2015 panchayat elections from your smartphone — no need to take a day off for the vote, no need to go to the polling booth and no need to stand in queue in the sun.

And, the Malayali diaspora can vote for their favourite candidates in the local bodies elections from anywhere in the world.

Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) now have the right to vote in the elections, but the number of NRI voters in the recent elections in the country has not been encouraging — because the voters need to be physically present at the polling booths.

Once e-voting through the Internet is in place, the turnout of the politically conscious overseas Keralites for balloting is likely to leapfrog.

First State

At the Pravasi Bharateeya Divas conference held in Kochi early this month, several Malayali associations abroad had wanted the authorities to go in for e-voting to make their voting rights meaningful.

The State Election Commission (SEC), which is tasked with running the local bodies elections, is working to make Kerala the first e-voting State.

Only option for NRIs

“We hope to introduce e-voting in the next round of elections to the local self-government institutions,” K. Sasidharan Nair, State Election Commissioner, told The Hindu.

“e-voting will be an option for the voters who do not want to cast their ballots in a polling booth.

But, for the lakhs of non-resident Keralites working in all corners of the world, it will be the only option. They can vote from their laptops, personal computers or smartphones,” he said.

Talks with the expert

Mr. Nair said the SEC authorities had preliminary discussions with Scytl, the world leaders in election technology. (Scytl, whose name is derived from the ancient Greek word Scytale—name for a crude method of secret communication during wars—is headquartered in Barcelona, Spain). They were positive that the 2015 elections could be smart.

e-voting, currently practised by several western countries, was far less expensive than manual voting.

Cost benefit

Security against hacking and malpractices was an issue, but the Scytl technology would take care of it. He said though e-voting was mainly aimed at NoRKs, it would be available to all voters. He hoped that by the time e-voting was in place, a huge chunk of Kerala voters would have access to computers and Internet.

Gujarat’s case

If it becomes a reality by 2015, Kerala would be the first State to have gone for full-swing e-voting. Gujarat had experimented with e-voting in the local body elections in 2010, but it was limited to select urban centres

Mr. Nair, however, said that for empowering NoRK with e-voting, legislative sanction was necessary.

The Municipalities Act and Panchayat Act had to be amended to enable them to get on the voters’ list for local body elections. The amendments were now in the works.

Wooing the young

Mr. Nair said if everything went off smoothly, a college student could cast his/her ballot from his/her smartphone sitting in the classroom.

He noted that though the minimum age for voting in the panchayat and municipal elections was 18, the new generation was not very keen to cast their votes.

One reason was the hassle of going to the booth and standing in line.

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