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Innovation

Mar 01, 2004
India’s elections go electronic with EVM

Amidst the noise and news bombs exploding everywhere because of the coming elections, one great Indian successs is not getting its due. The Electronic Voting Machine [EVM] is a fully indigenous product refined over the decade since it debuted in 1989. In the forthcoming elections in May 2004, EVMs will be used in every single polling station in the country. Indian elections will have gone fully electronic. A million EVMs will be deployed to ensure that.

The EVM is India’s own quiet affirmation of its commitment to ensuring free and fair elections. The Election Commission of India is an autonomous body with wide and deep powers. In the eighties, it began working with Bharat Electronics Ltd [BEL], Bangalore and the Electronic Corporation of India Ltd [ECIL], Hyderabad to design a machine from the ground up.

Today’s EVM, evolved over several iterations, is a mature product. It consists of a Control Unit [CU] and a Balloting Unit [BU] wired together by a 5m cable. The units are transported in snug polypropylene cases. They are powered by a 6v battery. They can be programmed to cater to upto 64 candidates and can poll and record over 3500 votes although each polling station in India is designed for just 1500 votes. Votes polled can be kept in memory for 10 years.

The Commission’s first concern was the long ballot papers it had to print and transport securely to the nearly million polling stations all over the country. Quite apart from the complexity was the cost and waste of paper. In 1996, 8000 tonnes of paper were used and in 1998, 7700 tonnes. In 2004, paper use is expected to be minimal.

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