No more lost votes: EC’s pilot on remote voting for migrants is a big plus for democracy. Aim for 2024 full rollout

News: Democracy becomes meaningful and equitable when every citizen has a fair chance to cast a vote. Hence, the Election Commission move to conduct a pilot project to explore the possibility of remote voting for migrant workers is a big plus for electoral democracy.

Why remote voting provision is significant?

Internal migrants will benefit: Not everyone can take a train or flight back home to vote. Nearly 300 million citizens out of a total of 910 million electors didn’t cast their votes in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Ways to enfranchise them must be found.

From the 2011 Census that counted 450 million internal migrants, the number is estimated to be 600 million now. Short-term migrants who spend some months of the year in cities far away from their villages rarely acquire a vote in their place of work. This category will benefit from EC’s move.

What are some associated challenges?

Logistic issues: Migrants will have to be mapped and then enrolled for remote voting. Designated polling centres must be set up across India.

There will be election day tech challenges – verifying voter identities and ensuring the vote cast on the EVM is channelled to the correct booth and constituency.

Also, those listed for remote voting but turning up physically at domicile polling booths due to personal or other emergencies – recall the lockdown – must be accommodated.

Way forward

With institutional and political will, difficulties can be overcome.

From shuttling security forces and polling officers across polling phases, sanitising electoral rolls, enrolling first-time voters to getting the women’s vote out, EC is a past master at resolving logistical problems.

The previous Lok Sabha had passed a bill to extend proxy voting facility to NRIs, but the bill lapsed. Such reforms should get cross-party backing.

As EC starts the migrant voting pilot project, it should also start the process of identifying migrant voter clusters. Gujarat is a migrant worker hub. Let the pilot happen there and EC should aim for a 2024 full rollout.

Source: This post is based on the article “No more lost votes: EC’s pilot on remote voting for migrants is a big plus for democracy. Aim for 2024 full rollout” published in The Times of India on 8th June 22.

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