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Methods Adopted By ECI for Making Elections Inclusive & Accessible

The Chief Election Commissioner of India, Sunil Arora and Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa inaugurated an International Conference on ‘Making our Elections Inclusive and Accessible’ today.

Tooba Maher

The Chief Election Commissioner of India, Sunil Arora and Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa inaugurated an International Conference on ‘Making our Elections Inclusive and Accessible’ today.  

ECI is hosting the International Conference on the occasion of 9th National Voters Day which is observed on 25th January every year. Chairpersons, Chief Election Commissioners, Commissioner and Senior Officials from Election Management Bodies (EMBs) viz. Bangladesh, Bhutan, Kazakhstan, Maldives,  Russia & Sri Lanka and Heads and Senior Representatives of International Organisations viz. Malaysian Commonwealth Studies Centre, U.K.; International Centre for Parliamentary Studies, U.K. and International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) are gathered in New Delhi to participate in this event. 

Sunil Arora, Chief Election Commissioner of India, addressed that free, fair, transparent, credible and ethical elections are critical to the legitimacy of a democratic government. It is imperative that the voice of all categories of voters is included in democratic representation. Inclusive elections including characteristics of transparency, accountability and competitiveness add to the strength of democratic polity. 

He strongly affirmed that ECI is always open to all kinds of feedback in all forms from all stakeholders particularly the political parties who are the most important stakeholders after the voters. ECI is not going to be intimidated, coerced or pressurized into going back to ballot papers days. The position has been consistently maintained by successive Commissions and the same will be maintained in the future.   

Mr. Sunil Arora informed in ballot paper era there used to be innumerable complaints about impersonation and booth capturing by anti-social elements and musclemen etc. Besides, there were inordinate delays in declaring results which sometimes spread from 3-4 days.  

Now we have kept a robust technical and administrative mechanism to safeguard the integrity of EVM. VVPATs have further enhanced and improved the transparency of votes for the voters. 

He also denounced the targeting of the machines, which unnecessarily are being dragged into motivated slugfest. “EVMs have been in use for the last two decades. Even in several elections since 2014, the machines have given different results in different elections. Even in the recent elections in the five States, out of a total of 176,000 Polling Booths where EVMs were used, there were 6 incidents of violation of Standard Operating Procedure that also in reserved EVMs not used in the actual elections.  

Although the ratio is negligible but even in these cases stringent disciplinary action was taken and ECI has and always will have zero tolerance to any kind of errors in the election process. 

Election Commissioner, Ashok Lavasa in his address mentioned that Election Commission of India has played a pioneering role in organizing free, fair and credible elections in a transparent manner in the largest democracy in the world and leads the way in sharing best practices and knowledge skills with fellow EMBs.  He also referred to the active role played by ECI in international arena in the field of Election Management through its close association with regional and world bodies like FEMBoSA, AAEA, A-WEB and International IDEA. 

ECI has provided technical assistance to many countries like Jordan, Maldives, Namibia, Egypt, Bhutan and Nepal; undertaken Study/Observation Missions for Elections to a number of countries abroad and exchange visits for sharing of experiences and skills has helped with capacity building programmes. 

He emphasised that the better thing of the course is that the increase is across the spectrum, more woman, more first time voters, more PwDs, more transgenders and more service voters.  The next milestone is to improve it further and work towards ethical voting. 

Mr. Umesh Sinha, Senior Deputy Election Commissioner highlighted various initiatives taken by the ECI under its flagship programme Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) for enhancing Inclusion among various categories of voters to encourage their electoral participation.  He expressed the hope that the ideas and experiences shared at this Conference would provide useful takeaways for all stakeholders in this endeavor. 

On the sidelines of the Conference ECI also renewed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for cooperation in the field of election management with the Election Commission of Bhutan. To mark the occasion, ECI also released the January 2019 issue of its Quarterly Magazine ‘VOICE International’.  The magazine carries rich experiences for knowledge sharing on Inclusive and Accessible Elections across the democracies around the world. 

Interestingly, some of these delegates will also witness the celebration of the Republic Day on 26th January 2019. 

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