The Election Commission of India has silently expanded the availability of its digital voter ID, the Electronic Elector Photo ID Card, or e-EPIC, Entrackr has found. Now, any voter who has a unique mobile number registered with their voter ID is eligible to download a legally valid voter ID in PDF format. Earlier, only voters who registered for the first time after November 2020 were eligible.
This significantly eases the burden of local bodies like municipalities, who have typically been charged with physically delivering voter IDs, and also removes much delay in obtaining a voter ID by letting citizens download the document themselves. It also allows voters who are registered but don’t have their physical voter ID (or lost it) to quickly download it in time for upcoming polls.
The ECI has not announced this change and it is unclear when exactly the availability of e-EPIC was expanded. E-EPICs serve as valid ID proof to vote in elections, and as a valid proof of identity and address in general. On Sunday, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi had its local body elections; Monday is also the last day of the Gujarat legislative assembly elections.
An ECI spokesperson did not respond to queries by Entrackr on when exactly the eligibility of digital voter IDs was expanded, and how many more people have downloaded a copy of their respective IDs.
Voters who know their voter ID number (which can be looked up here) can download their e-EPIC from the National Voters’ Service Portal, which requires users to register for an account on that website first; but thereafter, the document can be downloaded for the registrant as well as their family and friends.
Entrackr had reported in March that few people had actually downloaded the digital voter ID: only 41 lakh voters had downloaded the document as of that month, the Election Commission of India said in a response to an RTI application we filed.
Even though the e-EPIC program was formally launched in January 2021, the election commission has reneged on its commitment to expand availability of the document to all voters.
The ECI initially said it would expand availability for the document in February 2021, but availability remained limited to a small slice of the tens of crores of adults eligible to vote in India. In March this year, over a year after more people were supposed to be able to download an e-EPIC, only 1.7 crore electors were eligible, and only 24% of these voters had downloaded it, according to the ECI’s RTI response to Entrackr that month.
It is not clear what the updated tally for this number is. The ECI maintains a webpage with an “E-Epic O Meter”, where it tracks the number of e-EPIC downloads in real time, but the site is no longer updating this count.
In December 2021, the government passed an act to essentially require voters to link their voter IDs to their Aadhaar, although the law said that electoral roll entries would not be denied simply because a voter didn’t do so. The ECI then introduced Form 6B for voters to add their Aadhaar number; the form also allows voters to link a different proof of identity, like a PAN card, passport, driving license, or pension document.
In spite of assurances that nobody’s name would be deleted for lack of Aadhaar, there have been some cases of local officials calling up voters and telling them that without an Aadhaar their name would be deleted from the voter rolls.
In online forms to add a phone number to become eligible for e-EPIC and to register anew to vote, the Aadhaar is not a mandatory field to fill out, and e-EPICs don’t currently require an elector to have their Aadhaar linked to their voter registration.