India Considers Digital Voter ID Before May Assembly Elections - Identity Review - Identity Review | Global Tech Think Tank

The Election Commission of India is weighing a large-scale technology project that could be one of the most ambitious digital identity undertakings to date: digitizing all voter IDs.

Voter identification is currently provided in the form of a physical card called the Elector’s Photo Identity Card (EPIC). The new initiative would completely digitize the identification document, allowing citizens to carry their voter ID, potentially as a PDF document, on their phone instead of as a physical card.

The Election Commission has been fielding multiple proposals to streamline the election process in advance of the assembly elections in May. “We keep getting suggestions and ideas from officers on the field, through working groups of chief electoral officers and the public. This is one such idea we are working on,” an Election Commission senior official said in an article by The Tribune India.

“It can be on a mobile, website, through e-mail… the idea is to provide faster delivery and easy accessibility. Physical card takes time to print and time to reach the voter,” the official said.

Not only would switching to a digital ID be much more cost-effective and efficient, but digital images may prove to be more accurate and more effective at identifying voters, especially if KYC technologies utilizing biometrics and AI are integrated to automate the identification verification process.

Eligible voters would provide their email addresses and mobile numbers to the Election Commission, where they would then verify the voter’s ID and use a one-time password (OTP) to allow the voter to download his or her digital EPIC.

The Election Commission is still considering this proposal, with security being a key concern. If approved, the digitization process could be implemented before the May assembly elections held in Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Assam, Kerala and Puducherry.

The Landscape of Digital Voter Identification

India is the world’s largest democracy, boasting over 911 million voters registered with the Election Commission. For nearly the last three decades, voters have used a physical ID card to vote.

Voter registration and identification is arguably one of the most important, yet difficult, parts of an election. Registering voters and verifying their identity plays a key part in whose voices get heard; if you can’t verify your identity, you can’t vote, a fact that has become glaringly obvious in the wake of the United States’s own voter fraud debates. In India’s 2019 general election, voter turnout was 67 percent, the highest it has ever been. This new digital ID could help expand voter turnout and usher in a fairer democratic process.


Lydia You is a computer scientist from Princeton University living in New York City. She is a Tech Innovation Fellow at Identity Review covering the intersection of global tech policy, internet culture and the future of digital media.

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