Special Correspondent

More people will be able to vote if an online system is installed: IT professional

Bangalore: Many young professionals, especially those from the information technology industry, are unable to vote in the elections due to several reasons, the most common being their work schedules on the voting day. "A secure online voting system, approved by the Election Commission, can help more people exercise their franchise and take the voting percentage higher, benefiting democratic institutions," suggested young IT professional Ashish Anand.

It can be even through dedicated devices installed at secure government premises, banks, railway stations or post offices, and can be interoperable with the existing system of polling booths, he said. Legal opinion is that it does not require any fresh legislation or amendment to existing laws, and can be implemented under existing provisions of the Constitution, he said.

One big advantage of online voting could be that it can be linked to a fingerprint scanning system for "remote voters" to prove their identity and prevent proxy voting. This may involve storing fingerprints of all remote voters who wish to use this option and this can be indicated on the electoral rolls. "Even a partisan presiding officer in a polling booth cannot encourage or allow proxy voting as in the case of electronic voting machines that can be forcibly misused. Prospective voters, who opt for remote voting, are also likely to be people who don't always reside in a locality for reasons of work and a soft target for proxy voters," Mr. Anand pointed out.

The advantage of this remote voting system was that it might need only nominal investment as the infrastructure already existed and only needed to be adapted for this use, he said. Almost all district headquarters had Internet connectivity and State election offices were maintaining electoral rolls in centralised databases. The identity of those opting for online voting could be checked against this database. The links with banks, post offices or other remote voting centres would be the additional facility needed.

"Extended on a larger scale, this system can reduce expenditure on logistics, security and even reduce the number of polling booths at least in urban areas," he said.

Polling figures in most cities do not exceed an average of 55 to 60 per cent and is often much lower. Many from the higher income groups either do not bother to vote or do not enrol themselves as voters, and in the case of IT and ITES professionals, their work schedules may keep them away from polling booths on the election day. If a remote voting option is offered, such persons can also exercise their democratic rights, he said.