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E-Voting: Voter IDs to be connected with Aadhaar

In what could become a trial for electronic voting, military and paramilitary personnel could soon use e-ballot at their service stations.

The government is working on a project to link voter identity cards to biometric Aadhaar identification numbers. Around three million security personnel will have access to instant voting. This number may go up because it does not include their family members.

A senior government official told Business Standard e-ballot services for security personnel would start after linking their voter ID cards with Aadhaar numbers. Biometric and other related machines will be installed in all service areas when the scheme is implemented.

Another government official said if the project went off smoothly it would demonstrate that e-voting was feasible. “India has been at the forefront of electoral reforms. It has electronic machines while America still has paper machines. So why not this?” the official added.

E-ballot will replace the postal ballot system, where ballot papers are mailed to defence personnel and the votes cast are collected by India Post.

“Can we have a technology-driven solution where people can vote, which reaches on time, does not get lost or is not tampered with?” said the second official quoted above. The department of information technology and the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing is setting up the needed architecture.

Last week, the Supreme Court directed the government to enable e-voting for non-resident Indians (NRIs) within eight weeks.

The government told the court it had approved e-ballots for Indian passport holders abroad, as recommended by the Election Commission, and the process would be in place after laws were amended. There are 10-11 million NRIs living across the world.

The Election Commission would also launch a pilot project next week to link voter ID cards and Aadhaar numbers for common citizens, sources said. The project aimed at eliminating bogus voters will eventually be rolled out nationally. The government’s target is to enroll everyone in the scheme by June 2015.

Till mid-January, 745.6 million people, or 61 per cent of the population, had been allotted Aadhaar numbers. In 15 states, the percentage of Aadhaar enrolment is over 90 per cent. Also 140 million bank accounts have also been seeded with the Aadhaar number.

Aadhaar was the brainchild of the previous United Progressive Alliance government. It is being used to monitor attendance of government officials and as a proof of identity for availing government and private services. The government plans to link it with the driving licence.

The Cabinet approved a modified version of cash transfers for the cooking gas subsidy last October to begin in 54 districts and spread to the rest of the country by January.

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