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From KYC to reporting poll code violations, ECI apps voters can use for free and fair parliamentary elections

India’s Election Commission (ECI) on Friday announced new technology measures for voters, including measures against electoral malpractice, in an effort to ensure participation and transparency for the upcoming parliamentary elections in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat. Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections will be held in one stage on November 12 and votes will be counted on December 8. The Commission has not announced the elections to the Gujarat Assembly.

Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Rajiv Kumar said, “technology will be useful to ensure everyone’s participation and transparency.” Citizens can alert EBI to information about electoral malpractice via the cVIGIL app. Each of these “reactions” is responded to within 100 minutes.

Kumar further said that EBI works with three broad objectives: holding free, fair, inclusive, accessible and incentive-free elections; hassle-free and comfortable voting experience and maximum voter participation. He also said the Election Commission aims to maximize voter participation, especially of young, urban, women, seniors, persons with disabilities and transgender voters.

What is the cVIGIL app?

The Election Commission described the cVIGIL app as a single app for registering, reporting and resolving poll code violations. “Voters can upload a photo or video of money, liquor or other freebies distributed through the app. The user’s GIS location will only be recorded and an election official will respond to the report within 100 minutes,” the official statement said.

To make use of information about the voting process, a designated helpline app will also provide details on how to view names on the electoral roll, the polling booth, contact BLO/ERO, check election results and information on how to use EVM.

What is the Know Your Candidate (KYC) app?

The main electoral body has also introduced a new feature for pre-election voters called the Know Your Candidate (KYC) app. The application provides voters with information about candidates with criminal antecedents so that they can make the right choice. The information will also be available on the ECI portal.

The EBI has ordered political parties and candidates with criminal records to publish their case in the local media and in the national newspaper to inform voters. It is also mandatory for the parties to upload detailed information on their websites or social media platforms.

Social media vigilance to check fake news

Social media teams have also been established to ensure strict vigilance. “We have established social media teams to closely monitor the spread of fake news during elections,” the CEC said.

Kumar said that in view of increasing incidents of “social media abuse”, social media platforms agreed to comply with the voluntary code of conduct they formulated in March 2019.

“Social media would be monitored. They (teams) are all ordered to react immediately before it gains traction… It gets explosive. And when 30 minutes have passed, there is no point in answering this because damage has been done. They have all been asked to be very vigilant and respond with facts,” he said.

He went on to say that teams have been instructed to respond immediately. “If they can’t respond with facts within 15-20 minutes, answer by saying we’ve seen we find facts and we’ll be back. So they immediately join that thing and break that cycle, before it gets out of hand,” Kumar added.

The Election Commissioner mentioned criminal action options arising from different legal frameworks under the IPC and under the various laws and said EBI will not hesitate to take those actions. “We have made it clear to everyone and we will enforce this,” he confirmed.

Kumar said the committee is also calling on all political parties and candidates to ensure that their supporters “don’t give in to hate speech and fake news” and urged them to closely monitor social media posts to ensure that the electoral sphere is not affected.

The Commission has also led coordinated action between enforcement agencies for unincentivized elections. “Identification of expenditure-sensitive constituencies for strict vigilance will also be carried out,” it said. State Police, Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), Income Tax, Enforcement Directorate (ED), GST Department, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, State Excise Dept, Railway Protection Force, Airport Authority of India, Postal Department, Reserve Bank of India and CISF have clues got.

The term of the Gujarat assembly will end on February 18 next year while that of Himachal Pradesh will expire on January 8, 2023.

The Election Commission said there are 1.86 lakh voters who vote for the first time, 1.22 lakh aged 80 and over and 1,184 voters over 100. “For the upcoming election polls in Himachal Pradesh, our teams will be ready to serve more than 55 Lakh voters, including 67,000 service voters and 56,000 people with disabilities (PWDs),” said CEC Kumar.

In Himachal Pradesh’s 68-member assembly election in 2017, the BJP won a clear majority by winning 44 seats. Congress won 21 seats, the Independents won two seats and the CPI(M) came out victorious in one seat.

In percentage terms, the BJP won 48.79 percent of the total valid votes, followed by Congress (41.68 percent) and Independents (6.34 percent).

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