Out of the 28 states and the 8 Union Territories, 7 of them have elections in 2020-2021. The whole world is currently going through a dangerous time due to COVID-19. Considering this, ECI is looking for an alternative method for conducting elections. They are looking for remote election using blockchain technology.
The preamble of the Indian Constitution declares India as a democratic republic nation. Indians chose their government for all levels through voting. India is one of the few nations that guarantee Universal Adult Franchise to its citizens. 61 crore people voted in the 2019 elections. Due to COVID-19, voting through traditional methods is going to be difficult. There would be chances of spreading corona to anyone who comes to vote. South Korea conducted an election during the COVID-19 outbreak. Few nations did this during the COVID-19 outbreak. Authorities issued proper guidelines that people adhered to. But there are big differences between these two nations. India has a larger population and lag in literacy rates and other social factors.
What is the plan?
On 10 August 2020, the election commission was conducting a brainstorming webinar. Organizers of this webinar were the EC and the Tamil Nadu E-governance Agency. This brainstorming event explored the solutions to break geographical barriers to voting. Setting up remote polling stations when voter registration is from a different place. Generation of dynamic ballot paper using the machine. A distributed consensus mechanism and its transparency were also talked about. Apart from them, discussion on the secrecy of vote happened. Blockchain was one of the alternatives which EC told the general public about.
Principal Scientific Adviser K. VijayRaghavan said that he is optimistic about this technology. He pointed out that there may be some pitfalls in using this technology. But we can find solutions to these pitfalls. This was only a platform for discussion. Hence, no official statement about the plan of research on the blockchain exists.
What is voting using blockchain?
Blockchain is a modern-day technology. It was first made in 2008. Satashi Nakamoto, made bitcoin using this technology. Bitcoin was the first cryptocurrency. A Blockchain is a public ledger of all transactions related to one thing. In the beginning, only one organization or source created a database. The owner of this database had the power to edit, delete, or falsify that data. Blockchain is a way to solve this issue. Blockchain creates a network of several nodes. Each of these nodes has a copy of the database. A set of rules controlled these nodes. It is this set of rules which help in controlling the data and their changes.
Hence, any change which happens un the data gets recorded in all the nodes. As soon as any data gets entered in one node. It gets copied to all the nodes. This avoids giving the power to edit to any one node. Further data gets audited regularly. Every transaction gets a verifiable time stamp. And hence, once the data gets stored, any change or deletion in data is not possible. It eases the process of verification and tracing.
How can it be used for voting?
Voting by the use of blockchain technology is being done by a lot of companies. They use it for the internal purposes of their organization. For national voting, the first step should be registration. By registration, a basic security check of any person is done. A security number should be issued by the election commission. It is like the EPIC number which is issued by the Indian election commission. The national insurance number in the UK is another example. This data should be stored in a different blockchain. Then by the use of auditing, the authenticity of the users can be checked.
Second, the transaction or blockchain is created when the government permits voting. This permission should be given in the form of a ballot paper. A multi-tiered system should be used for voting. The voting process will be monitored by independent bodies. An authentication process should be there to verify the ID of the voter, and the ballot paper. A web browser can be used for voting. For the people who can not access the internet, should vote through a physical voting booth. As soon as one login, auditing of the previous blockchain will be used. Then it will be used to verify the background of the voter. Then the user can cast its vote, as per his choice. This will act as an
Strength of blockchain voting
The technology for blockchain derives power through nodes. Through the network by verifying, processing, and recording all transactions across the system. This ledger is not stored in any form. But it exists on the chain which is. It gathers support from the nodes. By encrypting and decrypting, the database of blockchain becomes incorruptible. This network hence can be never taken down. No tampering is possible with it.
Checking of any change made in the data is possible and done. It would reduce the number of bogus voters that vote in every election. It will also, remove all the questions that one raises in the election through EVM. The authenticity of voting through EVM has always been raised. First by L.K. Advani and after that by other politicians. Though, it has never been proved that voting can be tampered with. It will remove the barrier related to geographical location.
What are the alternatives?
Many countries have switched to different methods for voting. There are 14 countries which have started internet voting. Out of this Estonia is the only one that has allowed the complete population to vote using the internet. France, Switzerland, and Canada are the other major nation, which is using internet voting. Estonia started internet voting in 2005. They use voting by verifying a national security number. This number is like the social security number in the US and EPIC number in India.
25 countries in South Africa have started using a fingerprint for voting. This is a great initiative for reducing the number of bogus voting. Biometric voting is the name given to them. This type of voting will be not suitable for Indian conditions. This type of voting is quite costly.
Why do we need to switch?
India is a country with a population of 130 crores. These out of these, approximately 60 crores voted in the last national elections. There are millions of migrant workers in India. These people are unable to vote as their name is not in the list of the area they work in. They have all the papers and meet the eligibility criteria for voting. But due to the current law and legal system, they are unable to vote. This violates their right to vote. To overcome this problem, the government need to change their laws. It is necessary to change these laws. India is a democratic country.
To ensure that democracy works fine, we need to ensure that all people vote. This will help in ensuring a better democracy. To ensure this, blockchain voting will help a lot. It would be a great change if the Election Commission Of India adopts new methods.
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