The Indian voter ID card is issued by the Election Commission of India. Its main purpose is as identity proof while casting votes. It also serves as general identity proof, address proof, and age proof for casting votes as well as for other purposes such as buying a mobile phone SIM or applying for a passport. It is also known as Electoral Photo ID Card (EPIC).
The voter card is issued to all Indian citizens who have attained the age of 18 years and qualify to be a voter. One has to apply on prescribed Form-6 of Election Commission attached with proof of ID, Indian nationality, age and residence.
Bankrupt and mentally sick people over 18 years do not qualify to vote, therefore it is not issued to them. Applicants have to submit paper Form-6 to their municipal corporation / cantonment board of the area. Applicants can also apply online on the website of the chief electoral officer given for that State.
A voter identification card offers a number of advantages:
- It is a reliable form of identification.
- It serves as acknowledgement that the voter is duly registered.
- It may include several identifying features (e.g. photograph, signature, fingerprints) to provide greater assurance that the voter is who he or she claims to be.
- It may be marked when the voter has obtained a ballot, preventing multiple voting.
- It can be designed to be suitable for an electorate with a low literacy rate.
- It can be an effective form of identification where many voters have no fixed address.
- It facilitates voting in areas where a voter may not be known personally.
- It can be issued together with voter education material.
- In addition, there may be other, less tangible reasons for favouring voter identification cards. For example, according to a study of photo ID cards, the cards were said to convey to voters a feeling of pride in their right to participate in the electoral process.
The voter identification card has a number of disadvantages:
- It may be very costly to produce and update. This is not always the case, but costs rise as security features are added and the card comes to be regarded as the primary piece of identification held by citizens;
The high costs must be borne by the government, the voter or both. If the cost is borne by the voter, a lower proportion of eligible voters will obtain a card.
- It can be lost or stolen.
- A significant administrative structure must be in place to produce the cards.
- It must be produced with appropriate technology. If there is no electricity at the registration and card-issuing sites, cards may be sealed with a cold laminate or may be unsealed.
- Some voters will arrive at the voting station without their card. Procedures must be developed to deal with this situation.
- It must be updated periodically. Cards wear out over time and the pictures on them become outdated. Hence the need for a system to replace cards regularly;and
- The election management authority must have a reliable system for delivering cards. Ideally the card should be produced when the voter registers, but this may not be practical or feasible.