Online voting in Gujarat capital’s local elections

Filed on March 23, 2011

AHMEDABAD ó Chief Minister Narendra Modiís pet project of online voting, which was dropped at the last minute ahead of the municipal elections in Gujaratís six major cities in October last, will finally be implemented when the state capital of Gandhinagar goes to local polls next month.

State election commissioner KC Kapoor told Khaleej Times that Gujarat with its robust information technology infrastructure in terms of a data centre with 32 servers would become the first state to introduce Internet-based voting on April 19 when civic polls were scheduled to be held in India’s only capital without an elected body.

About 1,600 people have signed for the new facility under which a registered voter can either come to the e-polling station to exercise his franchise or can even cast his vote through Internet from his home or office, instead of standing in long queues outside polling booths.

With nominations opening on March 28, leaders of Gujarat’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and opposition Congress have already rolled up their sleeves to woo the 135,000 voters in newly-formed, 11-ward Gandhinagar municipal corporation, India’s smallest civic body spread over an area of 57.83 km and with a population of 190,000.

The online voting system, however, will be an add-on facility and will not replace the traditional Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). Also, an individual registered as an online voter will be taken off the list of regular voters at the polling booth in order to avoid multiple voting.

According to BJP spokesman Jagdish Bhavsar, with the state pushing for a compulsory voting bill to be passed in the Rajya Sabha, the online facility will come as a boon for all those with an Internet access.

However, in an earlier attempt, the system turned out to be a flop with Gujaratis in Ahmedabad, Surat, Rajkot, Vadodara, Jamnagar and Bhavnagar giving a thumbs-down to the novel experiment during a mock trial in October.

The state election commission had made massive arrangements to facilitate the e-voting during the civic polls but decided not to implement the Rs320-million unique initiative due to poor response despite several appeals.

There are 186 wards in the six cities but only 1,629 people had registered themselves for the new system. While the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation with 3.5 milion voters had only 372 e-voters for its 64 wards, there were just 340 e-voters in Surat, 545 in Vadodara, 199 in Rajkot, 124 in Jamnagar and a mere 49 in Bhavanagar. “Despite major efforts and a campaign to promote e-voting and online voting, citizens had rejected the idea in October,” admitted a state election commission official.

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