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Updated: December 14, 2012 01:28 IST

Voting with your fingertips

N. Gopalaswami
Comment (14)   ·   print   ·   T  T  
The Hindu

The incorporation of the Aadhar number in the electoral rolls will help to minimise malpractices and enable more people to participate in elections

Every October, the Election Commission begins the annual exercise of revising the electoral rolls with the following January 1 as the effective date. This October, there was another important news — the launching of Aadhar enabled service delivery in Dudu in Rajasthan. The EC and Aadhar can meet and let us see where and how.

The Commission undertakes two types of revisions of electoral rolls — ‘summary revision’ and ‘intensive revision.’ In the former, responsibility is cast on the potential voter to get himself registered by going to the designated centre. In the latter, door-to-door verification is undertaken by the Commission’s officers, the electoral roll is prepared afresh and this is generally done in States where a general election to the Assembly is due the following year. Over the years, computerisation of records and integration of voters’ photographs in the electoral rolls have helped make for a more error-free roll. They have also helped in undertaking various analyses to gauge the health of the electoral roll.

Change in numbers

It is now possible to quickly analyse by constituency and polling station the increase and decrease in the number of electors; based on the Census-given indicators of population growth, mid-term population figures and its age-wise distribution, pick out constituencies and polling stations that show a high deviation or, in other words, an abnormal increase or decrease in the number of voters. This helps to focus attention on constituencies and polling stations that need further checks and verification for mistakes in the electoral rolls. To quote an instance, immediately before the 2006 general elections to the Kerala Assembly, after an analysis on the above lines, the CEO of Kerala was able to pick two Assembly constituencies — one each in Kasargod and Palghat — that showed an abnormal increase in the number of electors. A special check ordered by the Commission, under the supervision of two senior officers, one from Karnataka and the other from Tamil Nadu, revealed large-scale duplication of names in the polling stations on the Kerala side with polling stations in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu respectively. In the Kasargod Assembly constituency, about 5000 duplicate (bogus) voters were deleted. Incidentally, that figure matched the margin of victory in the previous election!

With computerisation, it is also possible now to compare the electors in different age groups in the rolls with the Census given percentage of population in different age groups. Not surprisingly, it has been found that in most States, there is under-enrolment of electors mainly in the age group of 18 to 25, which made the Commission take up a special campaign for enrolling first-time voters. Such analyses, which began on an all-India basis in November 2008, are now de rigueur.

Establishing identity

While establishing a voter’s identity at the polling station on the day of election has become easier with the photo electoral roll, problems of missing or left-out voters still remain. The problem is more acute in metropolitan towns because of high level of inter-State, intra-State and intra-town movement of electors. Rural areas too have this problem even though migration of rural labour from one part of the State to another, as also across States, is seasonal. It results in large-scale deletions from the electoral rolls or absentees on the day of polling — a temptation to impersonation.

EPIC as proof

The Electoral Photo Identity Card (EPIC) given by the Election Commission as a proof of identity is also used as a proof of address and, so, most electors try to keep it safe. However, many are still under the misconception that the card indicating the name of the constituency and the polling station is not a valid document if the elector shifts to a different Assembly constituency. The EC has time and again reiterated that the card is primarily to identify an elector and therefore can be used in any polling station in India to which the elector has moved, even if it does not show his current address, provided he is enrolled in that place as an elector. A reason why an elector moving to a new area ignores the old EPIC is because it carries the old address; he would rather have a new one incorporating his current address to be able to use it as address proof.

The EC can overcome this problem if (a) it sets up a system by which the poll machinery in the new location recognises the EPIC through a shortened procedure of computer-based search, and effects hassle-free enrolment at the new polling station; (b) there is quick replacement of cards, for a fee, effecting the change only in the address but retaining the unique number.

It is important to make it attractive for electors to retain the old card with the unique number intact while s/he applies for the new one, as that will help EC officials trace the voter to his/her earlier constituency, consequently, to include the voter in the new constituency and delete his or her name from the old place. Simultaneously, the new card carrying the new address of the voter will fulfil his need for its use as proof of address or residence.

With the advent of the Aadhar card, it is time the Commission moved to incorporating the Aadhar number in the electoral roll. Thereafter, the Commission can move towards a system where changes in the electoral roll can be effected literally with one’s fingertips. It will also open up the possibility of voter identification at the polling station using either iris or fingerprint. Since Aadhar, unlike EPIC, will be issued to those below the age of 18 also, bringing on record new voters will also become much easier as Aadhar records can provide the details of all those who complete 18 years as on January 1 of a year, enabling the Commission to bring them on the rolls.

If the Aadhar information is used with proper safeguards, it will also be possible to avoid the deletion of names of seasonally migrating agricultural labourers, because based on the Aaadhar information and verification using the iris or finger prints, it will be possible for a migrant from, say, Bihar working in Chennai, to be enrolled in his native village — of course, with a little help from the election law by way of a change in the definition of the term “ordinarily resident.” In the normal course, the migrant working in Chennai cannot be enrolled in his native village, even if it is in Tamil Nadu. But if an NRI living in the United States can be incorporated in the electoral roll of his village or town in India, even when he is not ‘ordinarily resident’ there — the facility has been afforded to him by an amendment to the law — nothing should prevent a similar concession being extended to a migrant within the country.

Vote transfers

However, at the moment, the law may still stipulate that he can vote only if he is physically present on the date of polling at the place where he is a voter. If e-KYC can effect cash transfers, why not vote transfers? So the day need not be far away when a remote-voting solution emerges to combine the Aadhar information of identity with the facility to wire transfer the vote, making it possible for an elector residing in one part of the country to cast his vote in a polling station in another part where he is a registered voter. Not just to migrant voters, such a facility will be a great boon to armed forces personnel and those of the paramilitary forces and police, who live and serve on duty far away from the places where they are voters and are therefore not able to exercise their franchise, notwithstanding the postal ballot facility they are entitled to. But for all these, the first step has to be the incorporation of Aadhar number in the electoral roll. One looks forward to the EC undertaking this exercise sooner than later.

(The writer is former Chief Election Commissioner)

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N.Gopalaswami,s article makes a lot of sense. The infosis chief
MrNelakani was drafted by none other than Man mohan singh to devise an
identity card for all indians irrespective of the place he belongs.
Thus the card named Aadhaar was devised and all the information is
included to make it foolproof. so much work is done and it is
imperative that the card becomes mandatory and made use of as an
identity for all purposes. The writer,s suggestion to include
"Aadhaar" also as an identity proof is very sensible.This will enable
the card hoder to vote irrespective of the location. having spent lot
of money, it is necessary that it is made use of for an important area
of voting which is missed for location different from what is
mentioned in the voter list.If this is recognised, lot of votes will
be increased including soldiers in the forward area. voting by
finguretips can be made a reality.The entire centre government should
support this move.

from:  E.Sivasankaran
Posted on: Dec 15, 2012 at 14:47 IST

If ever we could vote through Aadhar, India would be the pioneer in the technologically advanced Election. I voted in UK last year and they used an ancient system of ballot papers. I felt nostalgic. In India, I will be surprised if our politicians will permit an Aadhar based system. As much as the benefits, the reliablity of the security in electronic systems/software will be questioned by parties. For most, seeing is believing. Seeing a ballot paper and seeing it counted gives a satisfaction for the candidate.

from:  Rajesh
Posted on: Dec 14, 2012 at 20:09 IST

The integration of Adhar enabled services in the process of election
is a welcome move from election commission.But there are also certain
bottlenecks that has to be addressed ,particularly to increase the
voting percentage among migratory populations.This could possibly be
addressed with the use of mobile electoral polls in urban areas where
there is a majority of the migrant population reside.Although this
huge task in implementation,effectively implementing would make people
exercise their democratic right and also would make a substantial
difference in the election results.

from:  ramasubramaniam
Posted on: Dec 14, 2012 at 19:53 IST

The election commission should ensure that the EPICard is flawless,first.Even now this is not achieved.Talking about UID cards is premature now,as only a miniscule portion of the population has it at hand.The commission should ensure that100%EPI Card availability is ensured.This will only turn the tide in Poll process.Arming umpty number of ID Cards only will add up to the confusion.There should be only one card catering the needs of all walks of life.That ulitimate card will emerge when,is a million dollar question.

from:  K.Sugavanam
Posted on: Dec 14, 2012 at 18:58 IST

Sir,

I would like to place a view on the 'Vote Transfer' point in your article.

First of all an innovative solution to enable such vote transfer method will not only benefit defence forces, but it will be a great boost to democracy as all working class people can also vote irrespective of the city they work and stay at present.

A huge % of urban population are not able to vote because they are not the original resident of the city. Even an alternate method like organizing mobile vote booths near work places where people can cast their votes for their constituency would also be a great help.

With the help of technology, mobile booths can select the constituency the voter belongs to, the list of candidates comes up and the voter can cast his choice.

the implementation details for such method can surely be discussed and sorted out.

once aadhar based vote transfer is implemented, democracy and indian politics will take a different direction, a positive one.

from:  Abinash
Posted on: Dec 14, 2012 at 13:54 IST

The success of Information Technology has not been leveraged in the process of electing the government in India, be it at the center or state levels.Having the census and the UID at our hands we definitely have an edge of launching e-voting system. The world was a spectator when we elected our government, the biggest democracy, through electronic voting machines. The huge pool of voters who work in IT industry, students studying in colleges in India and abroad, corporates in metropolitan cities are unable to vote. The irony is the best of brains in India do not take part in the process of electing the government. We certainly have the technological, economic and labor viability in creating a system which uses the tools of IT for voting. All that is needed is a strong political will.

from:  Divya Prakash
Posted on: Dec 14, 2012 at 13:21 IST

"Not just to migrant voters, such a facility will be a great boon to
armed forces personnel and those of the paramilitary forces and
police, who live and serve on duty far away from the places where they
are voters and are therefore not able to exercise their franchise,
notwithstanding the postal ballot facility they are entitled to."

My father was in the army (Retired as a Colonel).As far as I know he
was allowed to cast a vote without being physically present at the
polling booth.That he could do with the help of postal ballot.This is
nothing new,army personnel are already allowed to vote like that if
they are away on duty in far of places.

from:  Vidit Choubey
Posted on: Dec 14, 2012 at 12:17 IST

Very effective way presented by author for amendment in the process of polling
system.As well as vote transfers , a unique way of casting the vote as many of us
unable to cast a vote as we are far from our respective voting constituency.

from:  Shivam Shukla
Posted on: Dec 14, 2012 at 12:01 IST

To give too much emphasis on UIDAI for successful implementation of every govt run program or activities is not appropriate as most of citizen don't avail this.Also progress in order to make UIDAI available to all is not very enthusiastic. Moreover the penetration of EPIC is more. Lesser number of voter-turnout during the election is one of main obstacles in carrying election successfuly. Election commission need to pay proper thought against this. UIDAI should not be taken as a panacea for all thing.

from:  prabhat kumar
Posted on: Dec 14, 2012 at 11:15 IST

I am very agree with the writer because india is the largest democracy in the world.so we have the responsibility that every citizen in our country must ensure his/her franchise which can be ensured by AADHAR.This is the best way to wipe out the bogus vote and different malpractises in our electoral system.

from:  sumit gupta
Posted on: Dec 14, 2012 at 10:11 IST

Any acceptable system of remote voting (e-Voting) based on Aadhar number is not trivial as the author seems to make it sound. It must protect the nature of the "secret ballot" by anonymizing the vote. Not impossible, but UID technology has nothing to offer here. We should stop to think before plugging UID as the panacea for all problems.

from:  Kumar
Posted on: Dec 14, 2012 at 09:43 IST

The article admits "large scale duplications" and "deletions" in voters lists but does not inform concerned readers whether these were probed and the culprits punished ? Problem no.1 is lack of accountability !

from:  Kumar
Posted on: Dec 14, 2012 at 09:38 IST

I completely agree with the author that innovations should
be made to the archaic voting system through technology.If
vote can be transferred who knows one day one can cast
their vote from mobiles...but such thoughts can only be
improvised if new methods and changes are made in the
present voting system which may provide ease to voters as
well as provides transparency to the election process

from:  ajit singh
Posted on: Dec 14, 2012 at 07:13 IST

Very good article with deep insight of the subject. Government, Election Commision should take necessary action to implement these recommendations.

from:  Shelendra
Posted on: Dec 14, 2012 at 05:52 IST
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