Goa is poised to be the first state in the country to have a poll monitoring system (PMS) implemented during the Assembly elections, scheduled for March 3.

Voters at every booth in all 40 constituencies will be photographed on web cameras attached to computers and also digitally fingerprinted (only the thumb). Besides reducing paperwork substantially, the PMS is expected to help in preventing impersonation and bogus voting.

North Goa District Election Officer Mihir Vardhan, who is the nodal officer for the PMS, disclosed here recently that after successfully implementing the PMS in the Valpoi Assembly constituency by-election in north Goa in October 2010 followed by the elections to the City Corporation of Panaji, the Goa Election Office had sent a proposal to the Election Commission of India (ECI) to sanction a pilot project to cover the entire State with its 40 Assembly segments for the upcoming elections.

With 10.57 lakh voters and 1612 booths in the entire State, Goa is seen as an ideal State to test the system which would be yet another step towards reforming the polling system.

The ECI has not only approved the project but has sanctioned Rs.1.84 crores for implementing the project, including the hardware required. Before sending the proposal to the ECI, the Goa Election Office held discussions with political parties in the State to address their concerns and reservations.

With the PMS in place, every polling booth in the State will have a computer with web-camera and arrangements to get thumb-prints of every voter. With an additional 40 seconds per person required to complete the PMS formalities, the Goa election office has restricted the voter number to 800 per booth; if any booth has more than 800 voters, more polling officers would be sent to ensure there are no delays, said Mr. Vardhan.

Apart from that, the Goa Election Office has also asked the ECI to allow voting time to be increased by one hour to make it 9 hours — from 7 am to 5 pm — for Goa as the PMS was being implemented for the entire State for the first time.

All the computers in polling stations across the State will also be networked and connected to a central server from where voting trends and other related information will be monitored every hour. Whether to upload these details in real time on the internet to make them available to the political parties and public at large is still under the consideration of ECI.

 Mr. Vardhan also said that along with other States going to polls, the Election authorities in Goa also have initiated a project to train blind voters to operate Braille system for voting with the help of National Association of Blind, Goa. If this succeeds, for the first time blind voters would be able to vote without the help of assistants.

Special infrastructure arrangements would be done for such voters, he said.