How visually impaired voters can be empowered to verify their votes

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Externally, it requires headphones with volume controls.

Upon entering the voting booth, the voter puts on the headphones. When a vote is cast, a paper slip is printed in the VVPAT containing the candidate’s serial number, name, as well as the candidate’s image and symbol name and remains exposed through a transparent window for seven seconds.

The ITTS device captures the image of the slip of paper using its camera. Extraction of text from image is performed by optical character recognition software and the process of converting text to speech is performed by text-to-speech engine.

The audio output is then listened to through headphones. It shows the serial number, candidate name and candidate symbol name. The voter who listens on headphones can instantly verify that their vote is cast as expected.

Subsequently, the temporary files created in the ITTS device during this process are discarded, automatically creating space for new files.

The proposed autonomous system is not vulnerable to manipulation. The manufacturers of EVM (Bharat Electronics Ltd and Electronics Corporation of India Ltd) are able to manufacture inexpensive and efficient image-to-speech conversion devices (ITTS) using current technologies.

Voting is an act of expression which is of immense importance in a democratic system. In order to have the greatest transparency in the electoral system and to restore the confidence of voters with disabilities in EVMs, it is necessary to provide them with the possibility to verify their vote.

It is the voters themselves who must view their voting experience as a success. To be confident in the outcome of an election, they must believe that they have successfully used the voting system. Without this conviction, the outcome of the election can be called into question.

Therefore, in order to empower voters with disabilities to verify their votes, the Election Commission of India should incorporate a system of “converting text from image to speech” in electronic voting machines.

(Akshay Bajad is a Mumbai-based independent good governance and public policy researcher. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are those of the author. The Straight neither approves nor is responsible for it.)


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