Elections | Learning by Proxy

Elections are so hard to conduct only because it helps the ruling parties.

Elections are old; as old as democracy. The ancient Greeks and Romans who created democracy were amongst the first to elect their leaders. The first records of elections that still survive are from Greece in 754 B.C. In the early days of elections, a show of hands was often enough to make the election happen. Eventually, this gave way to paper ballots as the number of people participating in the elections increased.

The oldest institution that still continues to use its election process is the Vatican, where the pope is elected by a papal ballot.

Over the centuries, many countries have adopted a democratic governance system and as of 2018, there were 99 countries in the world that follow democratic governance.

Now think about it. 99 Democracies having hundreds of states; thousands of local bodies and probably millions of local government positions. People need to elect these officers. At any given time, on any given day, there is probably an election going on somewhere in the world.

It is hard to think of it in these terms but at the beginning of the 20th century, there were only 2 democracies - USA and Switzerland.

The last 50 years have brought a lot more countries into the democratic fold and also seen a step shift in technology usage and adoption.

How did you buy milk last week? Cash? How did you pay your rent? Cash? If you had to buy a new TV or another major appliance, how would you pay? Cash?

Most of us value the money in our accounts a lot more than the ballot that we are going to cast in any election. Almost all of us are willing to transact that very money through online medium, but somehow the only way to ensure fair elections is by parading everyone to a voting booth?!

We are capable of making systems through which Trillions of dollars can be transacted effortlessly every day but we cannot make a system on which votes can be cast?

Bizzare as it may seem, this is what our leaders tell us.

You will come across not a single news report but many research reports that will state,

Here are eight cybersecurity reasons why the election security may be too significant to make online voting a reality:

Reason 1: Election security cannot be guaranteed

Reason 2: Internet voting increases cybersecurity risk

Reason 3: No computer or system is 100% “unhackable”

Reason 4: Election hacking may go undetected

Reason 5: Identity verification may be impossible

Reason 6: U.S. elections prioritize anonymity

Reason 7: Online voting is potentially easier to attack than online shopping

Reason 8: The cost of setting up, maintaining, and securing online elections may outweigh benefits

Source: Cylumena

Obviously, this is all rubbish.

The real reason is voter suppression. In countries across the world, the ruling party is incentivised to register only those voters who would be sympathetic towards them. The best way to do that is to make the election process as convoluted and complicated as possible. When a national identity card (we call it Aadhaar in India, in the US they have the SSN, and so on) is issued to every person with their address, why does a separate voter registry have to be drawn out? Just ask the voter to ensure that the address on their ID is up to date.

Having a separate registration makes it possible to leave out certain voters. Also, to make it harder for certain voters to register.

There is no REAL reason voting cannot be undertaken online. There is only one country in the world that does it.

i-Voting is a unique solution that simply and conveniently helps to engage people in the governance process. In 2005, Estonia became the first country in the world to hold nation-wide elections using this method, and in 2007, it made headlines as the first country to use i-Voting in parliamentary elections.

Internet voting, or i-Voting, is a system that allows voters to cast their ballots from any internet-connected computer anywhere in the world. Completely unrelated to the electronic voting systems used elsewhere, which involve costly and problematic machinery, the Estonian solution is simple, elegant and secure.

During a designated pre-voting period, the voter logs onto the system using an ID-card or Mobile-ID, and casts a ballot. The voter’s identity is removed from the ballot before it reaches the National Electoral Commission for counting, thereby ensuring anonymity.

Source: e-Estonia

Estonia has the most amazing e-governance infrastructure. It also helps that the country is mostly white Christians and has very few immigrants. There are very few divisions in society so the need to suppress does not exist, yet!

The only other country ever remotely considering it, is Lithuania; Estonia's neighbour. The truth is internet voting can save Millions of dollars in the conduct of elections. It can also speed up the process and make it so much more efficient. It also reduced the carbon footprint of conducting elections.

So it came to me as a surprise...

A small segment of the world’s largest democracy is set to test a whole new way of exercising its electoral franchise: through a smartphone app.

On Oct. 20, nearly 113,000 voters of Khammam, a district in India’s newest state, will take part in a dry run for the country’s first smartphone-based e-voting exercise organised by the Telangana State Election Commission (TSEC). The polling body is using artificial intelligence and blockchain ledger technology for its experiment.

The registration for voting in the dry run will remain open on Oct. 8-18, TSEC said in an Oct. 6 (Wednesday) press release.

Last year, Telangana had piloted the use of facial recognition software in the municipal elections to evade the possibility of impersonation by fake voters.

Source: Quartz

Telangana is one of the newer states in India and they have shown the willingness to imbue their bureaucracy with technology. They have launched several interesting programs for startups working in blockchain and this is one of those implementations that is seeing the light of day. Whether it remains an experiment or moves forward for real applications is to be seen but it is certainly a step in the right direction.

To spend thousands of crores on elections in a country like India where taxpayers are so few is a criminal waste of resources. Also as evidenced above, there are solutions that can be found in technology if there is a willingness to look for it.

Take blockchain, facial recognition and second-factor biometric authentication. Put it together and secure it with the best encryption known to man. Why should an online voting solution not be possible?

Alex Tapscott argues that using a decentralized blockchain-based system it is possible to secure elections from external attacks. In elections run on blockchains, citizens use unique digital IDs cryptographically secured with a private key on the person’s device. Thus, citizens casting their votes through an app on the personal device may always check the blockchain to verify that their vote was counted correctly. ‘No government or hacker can change the result without immediate detection’, says Alex Tapscott.

Source: International Affairs House

Ultimately, the only reason to not run elections online is Political Expediency.