Holding India's titanic general election is no simple task. Voting is broken down into nine phases—the fifth and largest of which is scheduled for this Thursday—that are spread over six weeks. Over the six weeks, an army of 11 million election officials and security forces will staff and operate more than 935,000 polling stations in India's 543 electoral constituencies, where they will serve almost 815 million registered Indian voters. Central to this undertaking are India's 1.7 million electronic voting machines, or EVMs, the portable, affordable, and highly durable systems that help this massive exercise in democracy run smoothly.
Each EVM comes in two parts. The control unit remains with election officials at each polling place and connects by cable to the balloting unit. When a voter enters a polling booth, an official activates the balloting unit. The voter then presses one of up to 64 blue buttons next to each candidate's name and political-party symbol to cast his or her vote. India's Election Commission has produced a video explaining the process:
EVMs help India overcome a number of electoral challenges. The machines are compact and portable, in contrast to bulkier booth-sized voting machines in the United States and elsewhere. They are also built to withstand India's diverse and sometimes-harsh climate. Since they run on two 6-volt alkaline batteries, EVMs can be readily used in rural India, where two-thirds of the country's 1.2 billion citizens live, and other areas with limited or no electricity.