Indians voting for federal and state legislators next month will press buttons on electronic voting machines (EVMs) rather than stamping ballots.

About 675 million voters are expected to exercise their franchise in a four-phase election that goes until May 10. This election will be unique as voting in all electoral constituencies will be done through EVMs, according to T.S. Krishnamurthy, India’s chief election commissioner. As many as 1.08 million EVMs are to be deployed for these elections, Krishnamurthy said, and willprovide a secure and reliable mode for voting.

EVMs were used by the Election Commission of India (EC) on an experimental basis for the first time in 16 constituencies during elections to three state assemblies in 1998. In the upcoming elections, the scale is vastly different as the EVMs are to be deployed in 543 constituencies spread all over the country.

The EVMs have been designed by the EC, in collaboration with two government-owned companies: Bharat Electronics Ltd. (BEL) in Bangalore and Electronics Corporation of India Ltd. (ECIL) in Hyderabad. Both companies manufacture the EVMs, which cost about US$200 each.

BEL is also looking beyond the Indian market to sell its EVMs. Four undisclosed South East Asian countries are evaluating them, according to a BEL spokesman.

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