Election Commission of India unveils roadmap for revamp

E-voter cards are among the 25 draft recommendations.

March 08, 2020 12:36 am | Updated 12:36 am IST - NEW DELHI

The Election Commission of India office in New Delhi. File

The Election Commission of India office in New Delhi. File

The Election Commission of India (ECI) is considering new voting methods, capping the campaign expenditure of political parties, online registration of new voters at 17 years and ending social media campaigning 48 hours before polling among the recommendations proposed by working groups it set up in 2019.

The nine working groups, constituted after the Lok Sabha election and comprising ECI officials and State Chief Electoral Officers, had presented their draft recommendations on February 18.

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Suggestions by March 31

On Saturday, the ECI published 25 of the main recommendations and invited comments or suggestions from the public till March 31 on the email address: coordination@eci.gov.in

“Working groups collated inputs from the field, analysed these inputs in the context of existing legal and institutional frameworks, and suggested pathways for the future to add value to the electoral process in the country,” the ECI said in the letter inviting suggestions.

Among the recommendations being considered is replacing all the forms for various voter services, including registration of new voter and change of address, with one single form.

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“Multiple numbers of forms create confusion and affect the efficiency in the process. It is now proposed to have a unified and simplified form for all services to voters,” the ECI said.

Another recommendation was to start online registration facilities at the school or college-level for all prospective voters at 17 years of age so they can be enrolled in the electoral roll as soon as they become eligible at 18. The ECI also recommended four cut-off dates in a year to enroll as a voter. Currently, January 1 is the qualifying date so those who turn 18 after that date are not eligible to vote the whole year. The ECI has proposed January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1 as the qualifying dates, while the Law Ministry has suggested two dates — January 1 and July 1.

Electronic voter cards

The ECI also proposed to give out electronic versions of the voter ID card — EPIC — for convenience of voters.

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Though not specifying the method, one of the recommendations was to look at the “possibility and feasibility of different voting methods”. The Hindu had reported on February 16 that the IIT-Madras was working on a prototype for an Aadhaar-linked remote voting system for the ECI.

In its letter inviting suggestions, the ECI said: “The Commission has already implemented one-way online transfer of postal ballots for service and implemented the same for the whole country in 2019. It has been seen that approximately 30% of electors are not able to participate in elections for various reasons... , some of them, as assessed in a report on facilities of domestic migrants may polling to the category of migrants who continue to remain voters at their previous locations. Commission is exploring the possibility and feasibility of different voting methods which remains secure and safe to ease and improve the electoral participation.”

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Expenditure cap

For political parties, the recommendations included online nomination of candidates and a cap on the spending allowed by parties. Currently, individual candidates are allowed a limited expenditure on campaigning.

Another recommendation was to impose a “silence period of 48 hours” before polling on social media and print media. Campaigning on electronic media in the last 48 hours before polling is prohibited currently.

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