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Election Commission wants a system that analyses voter behaviour at poll booths: Report

The report suggests that these systems could be introduced for the 2024 LS polls, sparking a range of concerns.

The Election Commission of India (ECI) is looking to commission an analytics-based system that monitors and analyses the conduct of voters at polling booths, according to a report by the Economic Times. “The ECI wanted to create a system to monitor voters by behaviour, conduct and time of stay,” Sanjeev Kumar, chairman of the State-owned Telecommunications Consultants India Limited (TCIL) – who was contacted by the ECI for creating the system – is quoted as saying in the report.

This move comes after multiple complaints were made to the ECI about booth capturing and election mismanagement. TCIL expects that it could win a contract for the state assembly polls and general elections scheduled in 2024, as per the report.

Technological interventions in the voting process, while gaining pace in recent times, have given space for concerns around privacy as well as voter profiling and disenfranchisement. If an automated system analyses voters’ behaviour at poll booths, how accurate will this system be, what kind of data will be stored, and how will the secrecy of ballots be maintained, are some of the questions that arise.

TCIL will develop proof-of-concept before implementing

TCIL may develop a proof-of-concept for a few polling locations after getting ECI’s feedback and approval, before getting awarded the contract for the system, the report said.

An official of the company is also quoted as saying that they would want a GSM module for encrypted data transfers from a voting machine.

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“I believe that polling machines should have a GSM module so that they can transmit encrypted data to a central server, and that can only be read in the presence of polling agents nominated by political parties,” Kumar told ET.

Here, it is not clear if Kumar is referring to Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) or VVPAT (Verified Voter Paper Trail Audits), and if such an analytics-based system would come in-built in a voting machine. MediaNama has reached out to TCIL for clarification and will update this post if they respond.

The steadily growing presence of tech in the voting booth

January 2020: Facial recognition technology is used for the first time in the country on a pilot basis at 10 polling stations during civic elections in Telangana.

September 2020: The Telangana State Election Commission (TSEC) considers using blockchain-based e-voting in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) elections. This was ultimately shelved due to a lack of legislative backing.

November 2020: TESC announces that it is going to use Aadhaar-OTP based verification to allow home voting during the Hyderabad Greater Municipal Corporation elections.

January 2021: The Election Commission of India (ECI) plans to begin mock trials in remote voting facilities based on blockchain. A subsequent report reveals that the ECI sought to use three methods for voter verification: Iris and fingerprint-based biometric verification, voice-biometric verification, and facial recognition.

October 2021: The Telangana government announces plans to test a smartphone-based eVoting solution that leverages technologies such as blockchain, facial recognition, and Aadhaar authentication to record one’s vote.

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In the same month, the Bihar government reveals that it is going to use (Artificial Intelligence-based) Optical Character Recognition technology to count votes for the state’s panchayat elections.

December 2021: State Election Commissioner S.K. Srivastava says that biometric verification of voters might be done and Bihar’s AI-based vote counting system could be replicated for the 2022 municipal elections in Delhi and Chandigarh.

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Written By

I cover health technology for MediaNama, among other things. Reach me at anushka@medianama.com

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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