Views on E-Voting
Author: Sana Shaikh
We all know India is the world’s largest democracy. But do we know how the world’s largest democracy is getting operated? How does it choose its leaders and representatives? How does the 130-crore-plus population choose its’ leader? How are we adapting to the Digital Age? What is the mechanism behind the world’s largest electoral drive?
To understand this we have to first understand Election. An election is a democratic process where people choose their leader from amongst themselves who will make policies and decisions on their behalf for the largest good. The Election takes place for various posts and positions. From the Sarpanch of the village to the Prime Minister of our country, we can see a wide range of elections happening along with the house members of Lok and Rajya Sabha. These elections involve the participation of voters. The voters cast their vote through several methods and choose a leader to administer them. There are different methods of voting such as postal voting, telegram voting, online voting and many others. Amongst all, E-voting is widely talked about.
Electronic voting is usually abbreviated as E-voting. E-voting is an election system that uses encryption to allow a voter to transmit its choice of the vote and secret ballot over the internet. Electronic Voting was first used in the United States during the 1960s in which mechanical voting machines were used and punch cards were the storage medium for votes.
There are multiple types of Electronic Voting Machines that are in use:
Optical Scan System
The voter casts their vote on a paper and the paper ballot is scanned digitally. Votes are either tabulated by the scanning system locally, or they are collected in a ballot lockbox and sent to the scanning system locally.
Ballot Marketing Device
Ballot Marketing Device allows the voter to record their votes through a digital device such as a touch screen, but the device does not store the ballot and submits it for tabulation by an optical scan system.
Direct Recording Electronic
The voter casts their results directly into the voting systems’ computer memory by touching a screen. Some DREs provide the voter with a VVPAT to provide the voter with assurance in the form of a slip that shows the correct vote as recorded. It is an independent machine that gives confirmation to the voter and eliminates chances of manipulation. VVPAT stands for Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail.
During the 2019 Assembly Elections in India, Opposition Parties had raised concern over the VVPAT machines. The allegations said that the machines were tampered and hence the votes were manipulated. This makes it important for us to study the detailed view of Electronic Voting.
The supportive viewers of Electronic Voting say that it is a great tool for making the electoral process more efficient and for increasing trust in its management. Time management is its first benefit. Faster Vote Count and Tabulation helps us to save time and utilize it for other purpose. It helps in getting more accurate results as human error gets excluded. It helps in efficient handling of complicated electoral system formulae that requires human-labour intensive counting procedures. It gives increased convenience for voters with special needs as well for household voters and voters from abroad. It allows increased participation and turnout particularly with the use of Internet Voting at any given time without the need to spread it over few days or weeks.
It is in tune with an increasingly mobile society. It also plays an instrumental role in prevention of fraud in polling stations and luring the transmissions and tabulation of results by reducing the human intervention. It is a huge opportunity for a multi-lingual country like India is it provides the possibility of Multi-Lingual user interfaces that can serve a multilingual electorate better than paper ballots.
E-voting reduces costs to pay for the human labour and provides potential long term savings through time management of the labourers and reduced costs for the productions and distributions of ballot papers.
Compared to postal voting, Internet voting can reduce the incidence of vote-selling and family voting, where only the last vote shall count and prevent manipulation. Prominent personalities from the opposition have opposed this system. According to them, there is a possibility of a lack of transparency as the tampering is difficult to be detected. Professional Hackers are way too smart to match up the current system of operators. It also limits openness and understanding of the systems for non-experts. Hence, we need more literate as well as educated staff for technical support. With such a huge population, there might be a lack of agreed standards for e-voting systems.
There is a chance of potential violation of the secrecy and privacy of the vote by Big Tech Firms, insiders and hackers. Dealing with increased costs for both purchasing and maintaining e-voting systems and regulating the need for increased infrastructure and environmental requirements, communications technology, temperature and humidity is vital. Safety is supremely important during transport, storage and maintenance.
There is a need for additional voter education campaigns. A single fake news or hate speech has the chance of losing public trust and may create an atmosphere of fear of insecurity and coup as seen in the Myanmar case.
A bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde and comprising Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian put up a view that India needs to adapt to the coming Digital age and hence asked the Centre and Election Commission to file a reply on a plea from a Keralite. He suggested devolving an OTP based voting system to improve voting in India. We as the citizens have to ensure no matter which mode of voting happens, our duty to vote should be utilized to the optimum level.
1.www.whatis.com 2.Policy Paper on E-Voting by IDEA 3.IDEA Research Paper on E-voting, pg no 8 4. Research Paper by IDEA on E-voting, pg no 9Page