From Electors to Elections, from Voter to Voting and from Candidates to Counting: ICT Apps create a perfect Ecosystem
The new technological tools have enabled the Commission to bring in more efficiency, widespread reach, and accountability in the conduct of free and fair elections in recent times.
The Election Commission of India has accomplished the constitutional task of deepening electoral democracy through institution building, transparency & accessibility, adopting the inclusive approach, and strengthening it through process simplification and proactive interventions. Especially, the various technological tools have enabled the Commission to bring in more efficiency, widespread reach, and accountability in the conduct of free and fair elections in recent times.
The ecosystem of new apps in ECI especially mobile apps have played a major role in elections. The mobile apps provides better personalization, ease of sending notifications, mobile-specific features such as camera to capture, contact list access, Geographic Navigation System, phone calls, accelerometer, compass and the ability to work offline thereby making it more user friendly for voters and Election Officials.
Election Commission of India has used this opportunity and developed a suite of 20 Apps that provides a perfect ecosystem for rolling the giant wheel of the electoral system from Registration to Results. The elections have following 4 technological phases where the ecosystem of these applications are used. These four phases are described briefly as below:
The apps work in tandem during non-election, pre-election, in-election and post-election phases to create a perfect ecosystem providing seamless interfaces for all stakeholders. The applications have been so designed carefully, that they cover all the phases effectively.
Phase 1: Non-Election Phase
The first application for the non- election phase, where there is no obvious activity undertaken for the preparation of an election but is primarily characterised by voter enrolment, improvement of polling station facilities and strengthening of the electoral roll. The Election Commission of India utilizes ICT application for new voter registration, correction of entries, and migration cases apart from polling station rationalisation.
There are four methods by which a new voter is engaged.
First method is through the use of the Voter Portal. The portal provides the facility of searching names in the electoral roll by using the EPIC number or personal details, registration of new voters, corrections of particulars, and migration cases inside or outside the assembly constituency. The voter can submit the form and upload the relevant documents with ease using this app. There is no requirement to submit hard copies of the documents. Once the forms are submitted, the citizen can visit the portal and check the status of the submitted application.
The feature of integration with Digilocker facilitates uploading of the documents with ease.
The second method is through the use of the award-winning Voter Helpline Mobile App. This mobile application connects five databases for ECI together thereby presenting seamless services for the citizens. The mobile application allows Indian Voters to search their names from 920 million electors in a fraction of a second. The voter can verify their name, the polling station, details in the voter card, and also the election schedule. If a voter already has a voter ID card then the App provides facility to verify the details by simply scanning the barcode of voter id card.
The mobile app provides submission of forms for voter registration, migration and corrections. The user can simply upload the documents and fill the form. The form goes directly to the Electoral Registration Officer of the relevant Assembly Constituency for decision.
If the Voter is unable to avail the services, he can directly file a complaint to ECI using the mobile app. The Voter Helpline App is available both on iOS and on Android. The App has been downloaded 25 Million times and 54 Million electoral searches have been performed till date.
The third method is by SMS. By sending a short message at a designated number, a voter can verify the presence of their names in electoral register.
The fourth method is by calling toll free 1950: 1950 is one universal number available across India by which any user can call from any mobile operator and can talk to election-related issues in more than 22 languages. The agents are trained to operate on a universal portal for searching the names of the voters, taking the requests of new forms, and also lodging a complaint in case of any grievance.
The unique feature of the call centre is that it is available in all Districts and State Headquarters, but they are all connected by a common backbone of ICT application called as National Grievance Services Portal.
The Election Commission had declared Lok Sabha Elections 2019 as accessible elections. Special efforts were made to ensure ICT enablement for Persons with Disabilities. This second application called PWD App was launched with the primary focus to ensure wider participation of Persons With Disabilities (PWD).
This application is specifically designed to keep visual impairment, hearing impairment, and other disabilities into mind. PWD users can search their names & their voter ID details using this app. The Commission has provided detailed facilities for requesting doorstep facility for form filling to PwD electors. The application also provided the facility for marking themselves as PwD by describing their locomotive disability and requesting for wheelchairs. The visually impaired persons can hear the list of contesting candidates exactly as per the ballot sequence in the form 7A. Thus, they can confidently go to the polling station and press the right button in the Electronic Voting Machine. The application is available both on Android and iOS platforms.
The third application called ECI RTI Portal provides an online platform for requesting for right to information. Not just the application provides filing of RTI application but it provides filing of appeal and payment of RTI fees. This application provides the perfect means for improving the transparency and visibility.
The fourth application, very active during the Non-Election period, is called the Systematic Voters' Education and Electoral Participation program. It provides for voter education, spreading voter awareness and promoting voter literacy in India. The SVEEP Portal provides an effective digital engagement platform. The website contains forums, quizzes, manuals, tutorials and also provides a facility for voters to share photographs during the polling day.
The fifth application is about the ECI website that has been created by the ECI to provide deep integration of mobile applications and provide various accessibility and mobile-friendly features. The website has a modern interface, easy access and search and content driven framework. The new website contains information from the 1952 election onwards and is updated dynamically.
The sixth application built by the commission is for facilitating Political Party registration tracking online. Once the political party submits its application, a unique number is allocated, and thereafter by using this number he/she can track the status of his application online on his/her mobile. All types of discrepancies are intimated to the application from the portal itself and the intimation of registration is communicated online. This has brought in time-bound disposal and openness in Political party registration.
Phase 2: Pre-election
Six months to one year before the election depending upon the nature of election, a large scale planning exercise is undertaken with a view to move the Electronic Voting Machines and prepare for the material and resources. The machines’ requirement is assessed and then the machines are moved from manufacturer to district warehouses and also from one district warehouse to the other district warehouse of the States based upon the requirements.
To track and record the end to end movement for each machine from placement to destruction, a seventh application was developed as a new centralized software and is called EVM Management System (EMS). The EMS is designed to manage inventory of EVM units i.e. tracking of units from manufacturer to state, state to state, and district to district. The Election commission strictly ensures a highly secure, non-interrupted, and non-manipulated distribution of machines from one place to another place managed by district warehouses using this web application.
The whole process of the Randomization of Ballot Unit, Control Unit, and VVPAT is done multiple times in the presence of Political Parties and then finalized using the EMS softwares. This has added another layer of a confidence-building measure to establish the neutrality of the EVM machines.
Apart from Machine movement, various electoral exercises like improvement of health of electoral roll, new voter registration and updating of records are done using an online application called as ERONET.
Phase 3: In-election
Date of the announcement to date of poll
The eighth application created by the commission is another award-winning App called cVIGIL which stands for Citizen Vigilance. It is a mobile application designed by the Election Commission of India, with an opportunity to report election code violations directly by citizens. It is widely available, easy to use, generates legally tenable and prosecutable information to administrators. Chief Electoral Officers, District Election Officers, Returning Officers, flying squads and Police who all use the ICT application in prompt disposal of Model Code, Expenditure violation cases.
A trinity of factors working simultaneously makes cVIGIL a successful. Users capture audios, photos or videos in real-time, and a “100-minute” countdown for time-bound disposal of complaints is ensured. The app automatically enables a geo-tagging feature as soon as the user switches on their camera in the cVIGIL to report a violation. This means that flying squads could know the precise location of a reported violation, and the image captured by citizens could be used as evidence in the court of law.
The result: nearly 1,42,250 complaints were received in the 2019 parliamentary election period; 99% of which were disposed of and 80% of which were found correct. Previously only 20-25% of complaints received were found to be correct for the cases reported under model code of conduct.
The ninth application is an extended portal of cVIGIL called MCC violation portal to make MCC violations data available in the public domain. It allows the publication of all important MCC violation cases, notice issued, and decision of ECI through this online portal. This provides wider dissemination of violation by important leaders.
The tenth app of ECI is Candidate Nomination Application. The candidates are provided with an option to file their candidature online, digitise their affidavit and deposit the security through online payment. The system generates the printable filled-in form consisting of the QR code for easy submission to the returning officer. This is a significant milestone in the candidate nomination process especially relevant during the COVID pandemic. Once the application is filed successfully, the candidate can track their scrutiny status from the portal or by using the exclusive candidate app o the ECI called as Candidate suvidha app.
The Election Commission of India has designed in-house software for complete Candidate and election management through a software called ENCORE which stands for Enabling Communications on Real-time Environment. This provide seamless facility for Returning Officer to process candidate nomination, affidavit, Voter turnout, counting, results and data management.
The eleventh application is called ENCORE Scrutiny Application. It is a part of ENCORE that allows Returning Officers to do scrutiny of the nominations filed by the candidates. Each nomination is verified and the status is marked as ‘Accepted’, ‘Rejected’ or ‘Withdrawn’ depending on the candidate’s nomination acceptance, rejection or withdrawal of candidature. This helps the Returning Officer to prepare the final list of contesting candidates and assign the symbols.
The twelfth application is called candidate Affidavit portal for displaying information about candidate’s finances, assets and their liabilities. The affidavit portal is available at: https://affidavit.eci.gov.in/. These features of the affidavit are also available on the voter helpline app. Each candidate's original affidavit can be downloaded in PDF format. Similarly counter affidavits filed by others are also available on this portal for every citizen to read and make informed decision about their candidates.
The thirteenth application is a ENCORE Nodal App. Various departments like fire, education, police, environment, CPWD give no objection before any permission request from political party/ candidates is received in reference to holding rallies/ roadshows, meetings etc. Earlier, the matter would go individually to each nodal officer, thereby wasting a lot of time. The nodal app allows them to give no objection certificate on the go, thereby saving considerable time.The Candidates / Political parties can make the permission request online using the portal https://suvidha.eci.gov.in
Date of poll
The fifteenth application is called Booth App which facilitates faster identification of voters using encrypted QR code from the digitally marked copy of the electors. This reduces the queue in the polling station, helps in faster polling, and provides an error-free recording of real-time poll voter turnout with minimal intervention.
To enable voters to download the digital voter slip in their mobile application, voters can link up their mobile phone with EPIC card on the Voter Helpline App and download the Digital Voter slip containing QR code which is to be used for booth app. Booth app allows real time collection of voter turnout data, any interruptions in the polling, EVM malfunction and reports immediately to concerned sector magistrate / DEO.
Booth app allows easy identification of electors with colored photos directly coming from the electoral roll. It even prevents duplicate electors from casting the vote.
Finally the booth app allows submission of presiding officer diaries with minimal intervention.
The most important feature is the queue information system. Voters can see the queue in their polling station even before visiting the polling station.
Voter Turnout App provides real-time turnout details of each assembly constituency/ Parliamentary constituency including the number of men, women, and third gender to the larger public. This voter turnout app is exclusively used by citizens and also has been the primary method used by media houses.The application is available in the Google Play store.
Date of Counting
To ensure fast and authentic results of the elections, a very important application has been developed. This connects the counting centres across India in a secured manner and the counting data is calculated through this software and entered. Once the correctness is verified by the Counting staff, the results are submitted online. The moment the results are punched in, it becomes available to the citizens through various medium.
This has revolutionised the way the results are displayed. Not only it reduces the speculations, but provides the real time results.
Secondly, the results are also available through the Voter Helpline and Pwd App. A user can customise the results according to his need and preference. He can bookmark a certain candidate, constituency and State or he can scan his EPIC card to directly see the result of his constituency.
Thirdly, we launched Result Trends TV which is a customizable auto-scrolling panel displaying the results in real-time. These are installed outside the counting centers, public places, and are also used as a standard monitor for the officials monitoring the results.
Phase 4: Post Elections
The Nineteenth application developed is for monitoring day to day election expenditure incurred by the candidates and is called the Election Expenditure App. The monitoring of election expenses has to be done on a regular basis during the campaign period so as to properly and correctly account every election expenditure incurred by the candidates and political parties during this period.
Twentieth application called Index card is an important module of ENCORE. The final statistical report of the election is managed in the Index card application. Every detail of the election is reconciled with the physical record, validated and verified by the Returning Officers and Chief Electoral Officer of the State and thereafter published on the website for public view and analysis. Upon the successful launch of Index Card Application, the process of publication and verification has been simplified.
The Suite of application developed in the recent times provides interoperability between the several departments of ECI thereby providing the improvement in management and sharing of data. Secondly, the ICT platform of ECI improves business processes for all electoral staff as well as enhances transparency of election management flow. Thirdly, the integration of software allows ECI to develop IT facilities easily and respond timely to the growing expectations of the elections and electors. And lastly, these ICT applications have enabled ECI by making communication easier, reducing the time and effort, better functionality, improved control that has led to an increase in the efficiency of the Conduct of Elections.
The suite of web-based and mobile Apps stitch the end to end processes of elections and provide valuable assistance for decision-makers. The development made in ICT by ECI has laid the foundation for the next general elections to Parliament in the year 2024.
The Election Commission of India is an autonomous constitutional authority responsible for administering election processes in India. The body administers elections to the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, State Legislative Assemblies in India, and the offices of the President and Vice President in the country. The Election Commission operates under the authority of Constitution per Article 324, and subsequently enacted Representation of the People Act.
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