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E-Voting: To Be or not to Be?

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As around 28 crore votes reportedly got wasted as the voters didn’t cast their ballot in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, the talks around the necessity of internet voting or E-voting is being widely discussed and debated across the nation. While Article 326 of the Constitution of India, read with Article 19 and 16 of the Representation of the People Act, 1950, and 11A and 62 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, allow every Indian citizen, (not otherwise disqualified) who has attained 18 years of age, the right to get registered in the electoral rolls and vote in elections, there are a significant number of voters who miss voting for their respective causes. Suggestions from various panels highlight that if the non-resident Indians (NRI) are given the chance to express their electoral opinion, voters in different parts of India (not their own constituency) too should not be discriminated. Meanwhile, the rest questions that in our efforts to help voters exercise their franchise easily, will the expensive e-voting technologies be secure, accurate or reliable as promised by both the suppliers and the administration?

Retired IAS officer and former Maharashtra Election Commissioner Neela Satyanarayanan spoke to Afternoon Voice and expressed, There is a postal ballot system that allows the voters, who are away from home, to post their votes to the Election Commission. Gujarat tried online voting and Maharashtra tried it too. However, there were privacy issues. Suppose my family and I want to vote from my mobile or my computer, a politician can put a gun at my temple and ask us to vote for him i.e. vote buying through multiple offers as it is not a public domain.”

E-voting is a remote way of casting votes, over the internet where a computer, internet access, and country-specific E-ID are only required. Countries around the world, which experimented e-voting, have reported system and server failure on the Election Day, software bugs preventing votes from being recorded, difficult interfaces, etc. even after the full-proof testing, certification, and audit processes for the systems by the authorities.

AAP leader Sukhdev Banbanci stated, “Indian Army and Police force are working very hard to provide security to the people of this country. There are workers who have to migrate to different states in search of livelihood. For them, online voting is essential and they must also be connected through Aadhaar. It will indeed increase the voting percentage. Highly monitored provisions are however needed to prevent the E-voting system from getting hacked.”

Shivrajya Asangathit Kamgar Sanghatana National President Ravi Suryavanshi told AV, “Our country has 93 per cent people who are working in the unorganised sector. 60 per cent among them are living in different parts of the country and working as labourers. The public servants like the Army, Police, and government employees have the provision of postal ballot. A similar system is needed for the labourers too. The government should provide them with migration certificates and on that basis, voting rights must be provided.”

No more hurdle to travel to the polling place only to stand in a long queue and we could pull out our phone, cast our vote, and go along with our daily routine. Though it sounds technologically tempting, experts point out the high possibility of political manipulation if implemented and thus India is yet to take a call on the same. Moreover, the legality in this proposal can only be brought either through the directions of the Supreme Court or through legislation or ordinance. While there are many who want the government to embrace technology ensuring an inclusive voting process, they open the window to search mechanism to prevent voter harassment, vote buying, or even potential web attacks. Let us know what voters think on the much-debated idea:

Kandivali resident Sudhakar Maane said, “Voting is our right and the citizens know the value of their votes. Although, there are many who are unable to exercise their right as they are away from home on duty. Special provision to cast vote should be given to the workers living in other states. This can be possible as we are living in Digital age.”

Bitaan Sinha from Kolkata asserted, “As the technology in India is progressing at a faster pace, initiation of e-voting, the paperless system, is highly satisfactory. It would help the entire electoral process. There would be no need to stand in a queue for all day long as voters would be able to vote from home. Most importantly, various democratic maladies like hooliganism, rigging could be eradicated as there will no show of muscle power.”

He further added, “Besides these pros, there are cons too as the whole process will be internet dependent, it can easily fall victim to cybercrime. Nowadays, it’s not so difficult for the criminal masterminds, to hack such system and cause malice.”

Given that we get a practically fully-secured E-voting system in near future, its pros are also considered to be advantageous in increasing voter engagement and voter turnout. Many believe that the right of the homeless section of the society too will find its place as they lose the right to vote for not having a permanent address proof and thus ignored by the power corridors.

A student of Mumbai University, Piyush Wasnik shared, Everything new that comes into being has its own pros and cons. I don’t think that the Indian voters are ready at this moment as they don’t even believe in EVMs. However, if the online voting system comes into existence, there are more chances that it would fail and create chaos in the country.”

“Voting is our duty and we must manage our time and vote for the leader who can make the state or the country a better place for all. The voters are divided into two categories — traditional and young voters who are active on social media. The E-voting can be successful only in coming five to 10 years,” he added.

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