Thursday, December 17, 2015

The continued growth of remote e-voting in India

As the world's second largest country by population and the world's largest democracy overall, India certainly faces more than its fair share of bureaucratic and logistical challenges in addressing the needs of its citizens. The economy is growing and jobs are being created, but living conditions for many Indian residents continues to be wearisome. And with this many people anxious to have their voices heard for how to move the country forward, capturing their intentions on Election Day can be a logistical and administrative nightmare.

One strategy that has been making significant progress in recent years is the rising adoption of electronic voting technology, particularly as it pertains to the possibility of an Internet-based online voting solution. It has been said by the Central Election Commission that a new e-voting system will be introduced soon and this will help significantly with reducing or even eliminating the issues surrounding extraordinarily long queues on voting day.

The appeal of being able to cast a ballot online is multi-faceted, going beyond the convenience of avoiding long lineups on Election Day. The simple convenience of being able to vote from home or even on a mobile device is undeniable, as is the ease of access for people who may have geographic or physical challenges to overcome. This should help with improving voter turnout too.

What's more, it's said that voting online would help to mitigate issues related to the intimidating attempts made by “goons paid for by the local leaders” that have become a problem at voting places.

The benefits for the government and for the electoral commission cannot be understated either, by reducing the wastage of paper and other resources that are needed to run a more physically-oriented election.

This all sounds very good, but it's also increasingly clear that much more work remains to be done. The e-voting and online voting solution appears to be working, but the registration process for i-voting has been nothing short of a catastrophic debacle. The Gujarat Congress issued a statement decrying the lack of adequate preparation on the part of the State Election Commission in its execution of the online voting system.

More specifically, it says that some 20,000 citizens “had registered for online voting, but necessary details for registrations were not timely shared with them by SEC.” While the SEC had sent the required usernames and passwords to registrants, the required weblink was not included. What's more, because of further technical complications and challenges, registered voters could not even complete the activation of the e-voting process.

The logistics of the situation were further exacerbated as the convenience of voting from home was nullified. Registrants were told to visit a local office in person to complete a verification form, but upon arrival, they were told to go to the magistrate office for even further verification. This is no longer convenient at all and, as such, more preparation in preparing the infrastructure for e-voting and i-voting is clearly required.

All is not lost and other democracies around the world can look to India to address problems with their own e-voting and i-voting systems in a more pre-emptive manner. Moving forward, India endeavors to make it easier for non-residents to vote online too and the recent mandates toward this goal should spur on further progress and development.