From the faces of candidates with their respective party symbols on EVMs to the use of Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT), the 2019 Lok Sabha election will introduce voters to a range of novelties in the voting process.
The Election Commission said this on Sunday while announcing the schedule for elections to 543 constituencies in 36 states and union territories spread over seven phases. Among the things introduced to improve the voting process are:
1. Photo Voter Slips (PVS): This will not be accepted as the standalone identification document in polling stations. Electors can carry their electoral roll and Elector Photo Identity (EPIC) or any of the 11 alternative photo identity documents that include passport, driving licence and service identity cards with photograph issued to employees by central and state governments, public sector units and public limited companies.
The other documents include passbooks with photograph issued by bank and post office, PAN card, Aadhaar card, smart card issued by the Registrar General and Census Commission of India under the National Population Register, MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) job card, health insurance smart card issued under the scheme of the Labour Ministry, pension document with photograph, official identity cards issued to MPs, MLAs and MLCs.
2. Braille Photo Voter Slips: To ensure wholesome and constructive participation and active engagement of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) in the election process, the Commission is issuing accessible photo voter slips with braille features to persons with visual impairment, over and above the normal photo voter slips to be issued.
3. VVPAT at all booths: VVPATs — which allow a voter to verify his or her vote — will be used alongwith EVMs at every polling station to enhance the transparency and credibility of the election process. The Commission has made arrangements to ensure availability of adequate number of EVMs and VVPATs for the smooth conduct of the elections.
4. Photographs of candidates on EVM Ballot Paper: To help voters identify the candidates easily, the Commission is printing photographs of candidates on the EVM as well as on postal ballot papers.
5. Women Staff: The Commission wants at least one polling station in every Assembly to be managed exclusively by women staff.
6. Social Media Platforms: Social media platforms will cooperate with the Election Commission to track the political campaign. The EC has also asked these platforms to hire a Grievance Officer to look into the complaints lodged by users.
7. Tracking of EVMs through GPS: The Commission has instructed Chief Electoral Officers of all states and Union territories to carefully monitor at all times end-to-end movement of all reserve EVMs and VVPATs. For this purpose, vehicles of all Sector Officers’ with reserve EVMs and VVPATs will be mandatorily fitted with GPS tracking system.
8. Minimum facilities at polling stations: All Chief Electoral Officers have been instructed to ensure that every polling station is equipped with assured minimum facilities like drinking water, shed, toilet, ramp for physically challenged voters and a standard voting compartment.
9. Protection to electors of SC/ST, weaker sections: Those who force or intimidate members of Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe to not vote or to vote for a particular candidate are liable to be jailed — from six months to five years — and fined.
10. Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP): The Commission has launched several initiatives under SVEEP, its flagship voter education programme, to connect voters of all categories to the polling stations.
11. Voter Guide: Ahead of the elections, every household will get a voter guide, with the date and time of polls, contact details of the Booth Level Officers (BLOs), important website details, helpline numbers, documents required for identification besides other important information including the dos and don’ts for the voters. The BLOs will distribute this Voter Guide along with the Photo Voter Slips.