The upcoming assembly elections in Manipur are expected to open up new technological horizons as the electoral commission turns to technology to reach remote areas and ensure transparency and security.
After years of EVM-VVPAT “mismatch” allegations, the Election Commission of India introduces the new Symbol Loading Unit (SLU) as a pilot project in the Manipur elections.
Speaking to India Today, Deputy Chief Electoral Officer of Manipur, Md Suleiman Daulat Khan said the new SLUs, developed by Electronics Corporation of India (ECIL), will allow political parties to see the symbols loaded into the machines VVPAT.
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The SLU, which is programmed by the engineer, will download the party symbols into the VVPAT. The document being uploaded to the VVPAT can be viewed on a large screen. Once the SLU data is downloaded, the machine itself will remain with the district election officer until the end of the ballot. Election officials from each party will be allowed to observe the uploading process via large screens, to ensure transparency.
“There have been several incidents where political parties have alleged that the VVPATs are not working properly, or it is alleged that if you press a button on the EVM, the vote is displayed for another party. This new technology will bring transparency and allow political parties to see which symbols have been loaded onto VVPATs so there will be fewer complaints,” Khan said. Senior officials from ECI and ECIL are expected to arrive in Manipur next week to monitor the functioning of the SLU pilot project.
MOBILE APPS TO STREAMLINE THE SURVEY PROCESS
Specially created for the Manipur elections, mobile apps created by the North Eastern Space Application Center were introduced to streamline the election process.
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A special app called “Voter Facilitator” has been launched which will allow voters aged over 80 or with physical disabilities to book a “pick up and drop” and a wheelchair to access voting booths on Election Day.
“We have 738 voters over the age of 100. The number of voters over 80 is also quite large. The Main Elections Office is making every effort to make polling stations accessible to elderly and disabled voters,” Khan said.
Elderly voters can also opt for a “volunteer companion”, who will be a volunteer student, aged under 18, to help get to the voting booth and even to vote.
“We have already received several wheelchair registrations and reservations on the app, we are expecting more in the coming days,” says Khan. District Returning Officers will make arrangements based on registered requests.
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Many older voters have also opted to vote by mail, and EC teams began the process from February 16 to visit and verify those who are eligible.
Tech will also help track the EVMS, the survey teams, and the actual survey process.
CCTV cameras will be used for direct webcasting of 2400 polling stations. The webcast stream will reach District Election Officials, the CEO’s office at Imphal and the Election Commission of India. In voting booths located in remote areas with no internet connection, a videography of the voting process will be made.
As several areas of Manipur are remote and not accessible by roads, polling teams, carrying EVMs, VVPATs and other equipment, will leave the “dispersal centres” at the district headquarters, 2-3 days before the day of the ballot. .
For example, Churachandpur, which goes to the polls on February 28, has 114 polling stations where polling teams will leave 2 days before, and 26 polling stations where polling teams will be sent 3 days before polling day. To ensure the safety of EVMs and voting teams, mobile applications have been developed.
The E Tracker and E-Atlas applications, which have been developed locally by NESAC, will be integrated into the phones of electoral agents and teams traveling with EVMS. These are GPS-based applications to track EVMs and ensure that the vehicles used by the teams can be tracked by the district head office as well as the CEO of Manipur.
“These will ensure that all equipment and vehicles reach voting booths safely and that there are no allegations of fraud or theft of EVMs or VVPATs, especially in remote areas that have security issues,” Khan said. The CEO of Manipur has also called in additional CAPF companies to bolster security, and the technology will be used to closely monitor the situation.
The Booth app, which was developed by the ECI, will also be used to track voters in real time and ensure that every voter is verified through the EPIC card or serial number on the voters list.
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