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India's high-tech election

From CNN's Suhasini Haidar

• Facts about marathon election
• Profile: Indian PM Vajpayee
• Profile: Opposition leader Sonia Gandhi
• Timeline: Kashmir history
• In-depth: Where conflict rules
Atal Bihari Vajpayee
Sonia Gandhi

NEW DELHI, India -- Indians have been selling campaign material for decades in Delhi's busy Sadar bazaar.

But while rings, bags and flags have long adorned Anand Bhai's campaign shop, now dummy electronic voting machines are hitting the shelves in the capital of the world's largest democracy.

They've been a hot selling item ever since election officials announced the move from ballot boxes to electronic voting machines.

"Many voters get baffled by the machine," Bhai says, "and candidates use the dummies to educate them."

While India first used electronic machines in 1989 elections, this is the first time they've been used in all of India's 543 parliamentary constituencies.

The electorate is so large, voting was carried out in four stages over five days at 700,000 voting stations.

At one factory, employees worked double shifts to produce the 1.1 million units needed for India's 670 million voters.

As a result, voting was quicker, and tallying the votes the fastest ever, with results streaming in within hours instead of days.

The last, and biggest, round of voting ended on Monday and results are due on Thursday.

In rural areas where many Indians are illiterate, the voting machines were greeted with some confusion.

One local woman almost didn't vote.

"Not the red button," the official explained, "the one below it."

Another man found it easier to vote for his mother.

But at the end, the little machine had found its champions.

"These machines are great," says voter Raghunath Singh. "There's no chance of any vote rigging now."

Politicians like New Delhi candidate Ajay Maken endorse them too.

He says they have inspired him to go high-tech. He launched his own Web site, and went online with virtual voters everyday during the campaign.

"By the next elections, all candidates will be doing this," Maken says.

An added benefit is that the move from bulky ballot papers to electronic voting is eco-friendly.

The push of a button has saved 8,000 tones of paper, and thousand upon thousands of trees.

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