Citizens' right to vote and elect their representative in a periodic election is a basic requirement for any democratic nation. In a developing country like Nepal, unfair election practices are speculated most of the time and rightly so with our outdated electoral procedures. Invalid votes also play a major role in the somewhat unpredictable final result. While 3% average invalid votes are expected internationally, during the 2017 national elections, it reached 17% in Lalitpur, the first fully literate district in Nepal, and peaked as high as 22% outside the Kathmandu Valley. Such a high number of null votes is because of a complex electoral system and lack of voter education. With a whopping 125 political parties and their similar-looking symbols, it is a very confusing experience for the average Nepali to begin with. A host of other restrictions like touching the border with a stamp, smudging the stamp, or even touching another symbol when it is wet or wrongly folding the ballot paper, will surely confuse even the well-educated. Nepal ranks among the poorest countries in the world; however, it spends large sums of investment to ensure fair elections. According to the study by Election Observation Committee, Nepal (EOC-Nepal), the government and the candidates spent a combined total of Rs 131.63 billion on elections in 2017. The Nepali government's reluctance to adopt modern technology costs billions in elections when a little foresight can radically curtail these expenses. After ruminating over innovative ideas to improve the current electoral process, Ram Laxman Innovations developed a voting machine to make elections error-proof by embracing modern technology. This machine is locally designed and produced, bearing in mind the exact needs of the people and the country.
RL voting machine is a modern technology with a large touch screen that replicates the current paper ballot to avoid (culture shock). For further convenience of voters, voice assistance is available to guide them through the entire process. It is a versatile machine and supports even the picture and names of the candidates and political parties. We have added verification options to rectify mistakes in the system which has proven very useful for first-time users.
The voting machine is equipped with a 20 Wh battery that provides an uninterrupted power supply in case of a power outage. The election can go smoothly for a whole day with 12 hours of power backup. Moreover, its' charging mechanism has been designed, keeping Nepali geographical diversity into consideration. The voting machine can be charged with solar or batteries from motorbikes and other vehicles in rural places without electricity.
The backstory of this invention takes us back to 2010/2011 and a piece of specific news printed in the Kantipur. It reported a difficult situation for the Election Commission, Nepal, over their hasty purchase of an Electronic Voting Machine(EVM) from India in 2011. EVMs were introduced to Indian elections in 1998 and early 2000 in phases after testing throughout the 90s. Election Commission, Nepal tried to follow their Indian counterparts in reducing the fraudulent activity and extravagant expenses with the use of EVMs. But without proper planning and foresight, this move backfired massively. Nepali public and election officials found adjusting to this sudden change difficult, while the credibility of its results also raised some eyebrows. At the same time, the political parties had almost doubled from 64 to 125 in 5 years. Election Commission, Nepal was stuck with an expensive outdated machine. Upon RL Innovations' closer inspection, they discovered that the machine was using primitive technology.
This motivated RL Innovations to develop their version of the voting machine with a user-friendly interface. They have been working on voting machines for the last decade and have spent millions of Nepali rupees perfecting this device. They have successfully conducted over 100 elections for political parties, NRN, Jaycees, banks, schools, financial institutes and other organizations. They are currently working on the fifth iteration of a voting machine specifically designed for national elections. Unlike the imported voting machine, their invention gives the government flexibility to customize the screen size. It is simple to operate and easy to use. RL Innovations is confident of bringing an electoral reform in Nepal with this voting machine.