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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

  • 25 January, 2021

  • 20 Min Read

Electoral Reforms: Remote voting project, e-EPIC

Electoral Reforms: Remote voting project, e-EPIC

  • 25th January is the National Voters Day. On this occasion Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said that the trials of the Election Commission’s remote voting project would be carried out soon.
  • “We have already started a research project on remote voting using cutting-edge technology with IIT-Chennai and other leading institutions and it has made good progress. Mock trials of this project will begin soon,” he said.
  • The system being developed by the IIT-M uses blockchain for two-way remote voting at designated centres, an EC official had said when the project was started in 2020.

Blockchain Technology

  • Blockchains are a new data structure that is secure, cryptography-based, and distributed across a network. The technology supports cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, and the transfer of any data or digital asset.
  • Spearheaded by Bitcoin, blockchains achieve consensus among distributed nodes, allowing the transfer of digital goods without the need for centralized authorisation of transactions.
  • The technology allows transactions to be simultaneously anonymous and secure, peer-to-peer, instant and frictionless.
  • It does this by distributing trust from powerful intermediaries to a large global network, which through mass collaboration, clever code and cryptography, enables a tamper-proof public ledger of every transaction that’s ever happened on the network.
  • A block is the “current” part of a blockchain which records some or all of the recent transactions, and once completed, goes into the blockchain as permanent database. Each time a block gets completed, a new block is generated. Blocks are linked to each other (like a chain) in proper linear, chronological order with every block containing a hash of the previous block.
  • Benefits of blockchain technology:
    1. As a public ledger system, it records and validate each and every transaction made, which makes it secure and reliable.
    2. All the transactions made are authorized by miners, which makes the transactions immutable and prevent it from the threat of hacking.
    3. Blockchain technology discards the need of any third-party or central authority for peer-to-peer transactions.
    4. It allows decentralization of the technology.

  • Mr. Arora said “another significant change we can look forward to is grant of postal ballot facility to overseas electors”.

Electronic versions of the elector photo ID card, or e-EPIC

  • In another development, electors will be able to download electronic versions of the elector photo ID card, or e-EPIC with the Election Commission launching it during the National Voter Day celebration.
  • The digital version of EPICs would be available for download from the voter helpline app, voterportal.eci.gov.in and nvsp.in, the EC said.
  • The e-EPIC would be a non-editable PDF version of the EPIC that can be downloaded on the phone and stored on the DigiLocker app or printed from a computer.
  • All general voters who have valid EPIC numbers would be able to do so from February 1 and those who applied in November and December will be able to download it from Monday till January 31.

Chronology of Electoral Reforms

Electoral Reforms Pre-2000

  • Lowering of Voting Age: The 61st Amendment Act to the Constitution reduced the minimum age for voting from 21 to 18 years. (read about important amendments in the Indian Constitution, in the linked article.)
  • Deputation to Election Commission: All personnel working in preparing, revising and correcting the electoral rolls for elections shall be considered to be on deputation to the EC for the period of such employment, and they shall be superintended by the EC.
  • Increase in the number of proposers and the security deposit: The number of electors required to sign as proposers in the nomination papers for elections to the Rajya Sabha and the State Legislative Councils has been raised to 10% of the electors of the constituency or ten such electors, whichever is less chiefly to prevent frivolous candidates. The security deposit has also been hiked to prevent non-serious candidates.
  • Electronic Voting Machine (EVMs): First introduced in 1998 during the state elections of Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, EVMs are used widely now as they are fool-proof, efficient and a better option in terms of the environment.
  • Disqualification on conviction for violating the National Honours Act, 1971: This shall lead to disqualification of the person for 6 years from contesting to the Parliament and the state legislatures.
  • Restriction on contesting from more than 2 constituencies: A candidate cannot contest from more than 2 constituencies.
  • Death of a contesting candidate: Previously, the election was countermanded on the death of a contesting candidate. In the future, no election will be countermanded on the death of a contesting candidate. If the deceased candidate, however, was set up by a recognized national or state party, then the party concerned will be given an option to nominate another candidate within 7 days of the issue of a notice to that effect to the party concerned by the Election Commission.
  • It is prohibited by law to go to or near a polling booth bearing arms. This is punishable by imprisonment for up to 2 years.
  • On poll days, employees of organisations get a paid holiday and violation of this is punishable by a fine.
  • Prohibition on sale of liquor: No liquor or other intoxicants shall be sold or given or distributed at any shop, eating place, or any other place, whether private or public, within a polling area during the period of 48 hours ending with the hour fixed for the conclusion of poll.
  • Time limit for bye-elections: Bye-elections to any House of Parliament or a State Legislature will now be held within six months of the occurrence of the vacancy in that House. (Read about Parliament & State Legislature in the linked article.)
  • The period of campaigning has been reduced.

Electoral Reforms Post 2000

  • The electoral reforms target the election process in the country. The list of such electoral reforms are given below:
  • Ceiling on election expenditure: At present, there is no limit on the amount a political party can spend in an election or on a candidate. But, the Commission has put a cap on individual candidates’ spending. For the Lok Sabha elections, it is Rs. 50 – 70 lakh (depending on the state they are contesting the Lok Sabha seat from), and Rs. 20 – 28 lakh for an assembly election.
  • Restriction on exit polls: The EC issued a statement before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections saying that exit poll results could be broadcast only after the final phase of the elections were over. This was done to avoid prospective voters being misguided or prejudiced in any manner.
  • Voting through postal ballot: In 2013, the EC decided to expand the ambit of postal ballot voting in the country. Previously, only Indian staff in missions abroad and defence personnel in a limited way, could vote via postal ballots. Now, there are 6 categories of voters who can use the postal ballot: service voters; special voters; wives of service voters and special voters; voters subjected to preventive detention; voters on election duty and Notified voters.
  • Awareness Creation: The government decided to observe January 25th as ‘National Voters Day’ to mark the EC’s founding day. Read more on the National Voters’ Day here.
  • Political parties need to report any contribution in excess of Rs 20000 to the EC for claiming income tax benefit.
  • Declaring of criminal antecedents, assets, etc. by the candidates is required and declaring false information in the affidavit is now an electoral offence punishable with imprisonment up to 6 months or fine or both.

Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT)

  • VVPAT is an independent verification printer machine and is attached to electronic voting machines.
  • It allows voters to verify if their vote has gone to the intended candidate.
  • When a voter presses a button in the EVM, a paper slip is printed through the VVPAT. The slip contains the poll symbol and name of the candidate.
  • It allows the voter to verify his/her choice.
  • After being visible to the voter from a glass case in the VVPAT for seven seconds, the ballot slip will be cut and dropped into the dropbox in the VVPAT machine and a beep will be heard.
  • VVPAT machines can be accessed by polling officers only.

cVIGIL APP

  • The cVIGIL App provides time-stamped, evidence-based proof of the Model Code of Conduct / Expenditure Violation, having live photo/video with auto location data.
  • Any citizen can lodge a complaint through the Mobile App. Flying Squads will then investigate the matter and the Returning Officer takes the decision.
  • The status of cVIGIL can be shared with the cVIGIL complainant within a specified time limit.

Prelims PT Pointers regarding Electoral Reforms

  • 1st Electoral Reforms committee was V M Tarkunde Panel during Janta Party Government. Dinesh Goswami Committee – Electoral reforms. Indrajit Gupta Committee. – State funding of elections.
  • Election Commission of India established on 25th Jan, 1950. Hence Voters Day is celebrated on this day 1st time in 2011.
  • 1st General Elections conducted in 1951-52.
  • EVM universalised in 2000. SVEEP launched in 2010.
  • Introduction of NOTA and filing of Affidavit by Candidates in 2013.
  • National Voter's Services Portal (NVSP) launched in 2015.
  • Use of VVPAT in 2017. Electoral Literacy Club launched in 2018.
  • 2019: Record participation of 67.4% voters in 2019. Gender gap reduced to 0.1%. Special facilitation to PwD and Senior Citizens.

Source: TH


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