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The Election Commission today launched a web-based application, Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) network, aimed at efficient conduct of elections and said it would be "logistically equipped" by September 2018 to hold simultaneous polls for Lok Sabha and assemblies.
The announcement by the poll panel came days after it issued a formal direction that VVPAT or paper trail machines will be used at polling stations in all future elections where polls are held using EVMs.
"The Election Commission was asked by the Centre as what it would require for becoming capable of holding the parliamentary and assembly polls together.
"In response, the EC had asked for funds to purchase new EVMs and VVPAT machines. The commission would be logistically equipped by September, 2018, to hold parliamentary and assembly polls together," Election Commissioner O P Rawat told a press conference.
At the presser, the poll watchdog unveiled the Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) network.
Rawat said the commission has already placed the order for the purchase of new EVMs and VVPAT (Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail) machines after receiving funds from the Centre.
He said the poll body would get 40 lakh VVPAT machines by September 2018.
VVPAT is a machine which dispenses a slip with the symbol of the party for which a person has voted for. The slip drops in a box but the voter cannot take it home. It has only been used on trial basis in some places.
Several parties have been pressing for the use of these machines to dispel doubts about EVM tampering. Sixteen parties had recently petitioned the EC to revert to paper ballot system for greater transparency. The BSP, the AAP and the Congress had attacked the EC on the issue of alleged tampering of EVMs.
Responding to a query, Rawat said the EC had received Rs 3,400 crore for VVPAT machines and Rs 12,000 crore for EVMs.
"We would be logistically ready to hold simultaneous polls by September 2018, but it is up to the government to take a decision and make necessary legal amendments for it," the election commissioner said.
Rawat said the officers involved in the poll process, right from the booth level to the national level, would be connected through the ERO network. Besides, the facility can also be used for online registration by voters.
"ERO network would automatically detect duplicate registration of voters. Besides, officers from the booth level to the national level would be under one network and would be able to communicate with each other," he said.
Explaining the utility of the app, he said the ERO network would effectively keep a check on duplication.
"At times, voters migrate and get themselves registered at new places. However, they fail to get their name deleted from the previous place, which results in duplication," he added.
Rawat said an error-free electoral roll is a basis for conducting a smooth, free and fair election.
He informed that the poll panel had carried out the "electoral roll purification process" earlier and deleted duplicate registrations of voters. "ERO would make this work easier," he said.
When asked about the feasibility of an e-voting facility in future, Rawat said, "This (ERO) and the electronically transmitted postal ballot for service voters are the first and second steps towards it (e-voting)".
Rawat said they had used VVPAT machines in all the recent elections on the directive of the Supreme Court.
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