Monday, January 16, 2012

NRIs can vote online in civic elections

By Ashraf Padanna/Thiruvanthapuram

The Ministry for Panchayati Raj has asked state election commissions to put the online voting system in place enabling citizens to vote from anywhere in the world.
The move comes at a time when the Election Commission of India, which conducts national elections, is studying the demand from non-resident Indians to install a foolproof biometric identification system for them and facilitate online voting.
Reports from New Delhi said the ministry, which is in charge of the country’s three-tier local self-governments system, asked the regional authorities to make the facility available.
The state governments have accepted the proposal and the system will be in place as and when elections to the urban bodies are held.
The pilot project in Gandhinagar in Gujarat, proved successful, The Hindu daily said.
Voters who have registered online and got a separate ID with a password will be allowed to vote. They will be recognised by their mobile phone numbers and they will be informed of their time of voting by SMS.
Each voter will be allotted two minutes to cast the vote after the ballot paper pops up on the screen for the ward where the voter is enrolled, the paper said.
The time limit is set to avoid a mass attempt by electors casting their votes at the same time, which could jam the portal.
Though the NRIs were allowed to enroll from abroad last year and vote if physically present in their constituencies at the time of ballot, only 8,820 expatriates have enrolled due to strict conditions and among them only 4,639 could cast their vote in the March-April assembly elections in Kerala.
Expatriates say the decision to amend the Representation of People Act 1950 to enfranchise them was an ‘insincere and halfhearted’ move knowing well that they would not be able to vote under the present conditions and they were demanding facilities for secure online voting from the comforts of their homes wherever they are.
There are 2.28mn people from Kerala working abroad, mostly in the Gulf countries, and they constitute more than 10% of the state’s total eligible voters. Their vote could tilt the balance in many northern constituencies of the state.