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Enabling Democracy with online voting

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 The article in today’s TOI refers to “Differently” enabling Democracy as enabling voting for physically challenged persons. The physically challenged are unattractive to political parties as their numbers are small.  It took a PIL finally bring about enabling physically handicapped to vote gracefully.

 

While I am excited about these positive signals of a prospering Democracy in India, why not Web enables for Democracy, like elections conducted online? Obama’s online election campaign made news. What are the stumbling blocks for holding elections also online? Here I try to list some:

1.      Providing a secure enough web application

2.      Extending necessary technology to villages, for web voting.

3.      Who will bear the cost of development

4.      Will the private sector be interested to develop such system?

5.      Will anybody be interested to fund?

6.      Angel Investors or VCs

7.      What are the views of the government / Election Commission

8.      what are other objections

9.      Etc.

These are not good enough for not to try. Think of whole of Praja voting en mass at the stroke of 8 AM today.

PSA

 

Comments

roshanrk's picture

My first concern in such a

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My first concern in such a setup is how do you ensure secret ballot? How do you ensure that there was no one standing behind my back and coercing me to cast my vote for a particular party? I really don't think online voting is a good idea specially when these can be easily misused by people. 

I find the current method with the EVMs extremely convenient and it hardly took me 5 minutes to cast my vote. What needs more technology from the ECI's side is in the preparation and maintainence of the electoral rolls. A citizen should be able to track his application throughout the periiod of its processing and till it's on the list. Also, deletion of names should be made simpler. This would go a long way in getting people to register to vote and keeping the rolls error free.

Vasanthkumar Mysoremath's picture

Next Elections - Online voting

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PSA sir,

I am one of those who has been advocating IT based online voting system either through ATMs / Street Corner Kiosks specially erected with proper law and order protective personnel and gears, and your suggestion is very much welcome.

 

In addition, to make urban voters that much responsible, I have the following suggestions to make:

we can think of having kiosks with bio-metric voting facilities eg.,

 

(1) Iris tracked central voting system where, a voter gets into a kiosk, looks into the two eye-slots, gets instant recognition, a green light flashes, a touch screen method scroller with signs and names of candidates appears, presses the right button, system gets locked and you walk out; no hanky panky, no inking, no standing in ques, no pain in the neck for obtaining EPICs.

 

(2) Left hand thumb tracking system: - same facility, ATMs/ Bangalore ONEs/ Street corner Kiosks specially errected with security  - get inside a kiosk, press your left hand thumb in the slot provided, system beeps, green light if your LT thumb imprint matches with your data that is pre-stored in a central bank of citizens thumb impressions. 

 

We can think of enabling our credit cards also to swipe and vote during Election time only.

 

(3) Make Voting compulsory; 

(4) Alternatively, provide incentives to voters - say 5 per cent reduction in power/ water bills for a period of 3 months, if voting is proved.

(5) Bring in Election Reforms, "Recall of the Unfit", No criminals, Minimum and Maximum age prescription, amend Peoples Representation Act, Election Rules, if necessary, amend the constitution (we have amended more than 110 times and a few more will not hurt our leather bound constitution). 

 

-Vasanthkumar Mysoremath    

tsubba's picture

ULB elections

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does anybody remember we used to have something known as corporators and mayors and what not. wonder what happened to those? i guess between kumaraswamy and yediyurappa we have successfully managed to extinct these species of people's representatives.

psaram42's picture

Secret Ballots

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Roshan RK,

 Thank you very much for your comments. Your concerns are genuine indeed. It is great that you have taken time to put down your views. However before passing a judgment in a hurry should we not research on these very important issues you have brought up? I am sure there will be number of such issues. While I thank you for bringing up excellent points for and against the web enabling issue is it possible to address ourselves to look for possible solutions and advantages?

1.      With voting online, secrecy and coercions are very important issues. Possible Solution could be to conduct elections exactly like now except that it will be online on the web.  Advantage would be you can vote from any booth any where in the country and abroad online.

2.      Electoral Rolls on line. Have advantages. Can be left to experts to work out the modalities. We are perhaps not the experts. The job has to be out sourced to experts.

3.      Important issue is to work out advantages vs disadvantages

More important is to find out whether any where else especially in the USA such studies were made.

PSA

psaram42's picture

Electoral rolls on line

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 VKM sir,

Wow you are already on the subject well ahead. Let me digest what you are saying. Now I remember that Aeronautical Development Establishment in Bangalore has a Left Hand thumb tracking system already in place at their security gate. Enabling credit cards for voting really a brilliant idea. 

Are you in touch with the election commissions on this issue? 

Thanks a lot

PSA

psaram42's picture

Urban Local Body (ULB) elections

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 These are successfully hijacked as of today. ULBs and Gram Panchayat the villages Local Body (VLD) are the lowest rung at the grass root level of our administrative system. Our political system has for some strange reasons become virtually a two tier system instead of the three tier one which was proposed initially. The Mahatma was heavily banking on Panchayat Raj if I am correct.

We should bring back a truly three tier system including effectively the gram Panchayat and the municipal bodies.

PSA

Not a Bad Idea at all

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Having people vote online through ATM like kiosks is a good Idea.

There should initially be an infrastructure of such kiosks set up all over the country .

These kiosks should not only be used for voting but for general administration, such as seeking the opinion of the people on National/Regional issues.

Every informatoion that a citizen should know, should be available from here.

Basically it should be a website that can be browsed through any browser. The kiosks should act as an access point to the people who do not have a computer and internet connectivity.

Every single citizen should be able to voice his/her opinion on every aspect of administration. After all it's democracy.


--Anil

--Anil

idontspam's picture

ULB - How local?

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 Our political system has for some strange reasons become virtually a two tier system instead of the three tier one which was proposed initially

I would encourage as many tiers as it needs to get really local, otherwise the administration cannot scale and decisions will start becoming too high level for any good. Street level planning will happen only if we have area level administration with powers to shape their area. Even BBMP is high level for a city like bangalore we need area palikes. MP's are taking up street level issues, why? who will represent out views on national and international issues.

psaram42's picture

The RWAs and belling the cat

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 While ULD and VLDs are at the third level of official government administrative bodies, the RWAs (Residents Welfare Association) are the fourth level local citizen bodies as of now. These four tiers existing right now are well recognized and effective to the extent they are worth the salt. With these 4 level tiers it is possible for any ordinary citizen to overlook and contribute towards the well being of the nation as such. The RWA’s are registered bodies with annual accounts being verified by charted accountants. Our Ward number 74 has a couple of RWA’s.

The use of ATMs or any number of private kiosks can do the online job. We the RWA’s  have to bell the cat.

PSA

Vasanthkumar Mysoremath's picture

Online voting - ensuring secrecy with 'angels' in systems

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PSA, IDS, Murali, Anil, Taralesubbanna, roshanrk and all concerned Prajas,

After election results, whoever comes to power must be made to :

- bring in electoral reforms

- amend Peoples Representation Act

- amend Constituion of India articles

- no criminal

- minimum qualification

- maximum age

- making voting compulsory

- 'Recall of the Unfit', etc.

Then comes the electoral process:

- making the electoral rolls (at present dubbed as the mother of all frauds) by introducing IT enabled system improvements that enables all voters to be counted for ensuring participatory democracy - .

- After EVMs, future voting system should be totally IT enabled online voting.  As I have suggested in one of my posts above, Bio-Metric/ATM/Kiosks/Cyber Cafes enabled online voting systems would be the most viable alternatives if we have to reduce the burdens and pains of voters in registering their names, problems connected with obtaining EPICs,  elimination of use of paper and heralding office automatation systems thus avoiding destruction of wood, greenery, climate changes, etc., etc.  

- roshanrk - has expressed concern about ensuring secrecy in online voting - It is not a real problem - software system can develop necessary shell based  firewall protection parameters to avoid misuse, assisted by onscreen angels to destroy attempts by those who try to steal others votes etc. Our brilliant Indian brains are adept withTechnology and have answers to all and any doubts and are capable of developing simple solutions to complex problems at the click of a mouse. Believe it.

IVth Tier - Villages have Gram Panchayats, Taluks have Taluk Panchayats, Districts have Zilla Panchayats - three tier system ensured in rural areas - urban areas, such grassroots level like Gram Panchayats is absent.   But Corporators/MLAs who act as the owners of 2nd Tier system of planning and spending public money will not be interested in responding to the citizens owes unless there is 'something in it' for them.  

This is where the vibrant civil society has to step in to correct the system deficiency - I have successfully carried out a Pilot project at street level by involving citizens for creating a module for replication wherever citizens can implement it. 

A Power Point Presentation of this module titled 'C.I.V.I.L with G.I.S" was given at a meeting called by the Deputy Commissioner and DEO, Mysore on 9-3-09 when other top level officials, representatives of political parties, media, NGOs/RWA reps were present.  This has been appreciated by the Deputy Commissioner and the modus operandi of replicating is being examined at MCC level and a detailed meeting with citizens, NGOs, RWAs etc., is scheduled to be held sometime in May when the results are over. 

I have also suggested another practical module of "Scientific Renumbering of Urban Homes in India" and this also has been engaging the attention of the DC and MCC officials and is to be discussed at the ensuing meeting.

Mr.Manivanna, a very good officer and a gentleman who wants to see that during his tenure the citizens are enabled with a system in place to commandeer to the maximum extent the running of the civic administration and have control over public spending for attending to their needs at grassroots level.  

Please wait for further posting on the progress.  He has particularly mentioned that Mysore Prajas, NGOs, RWAs, MGP, ACCIM etc., and other Bangalore based concerned Prajas, who are spearheadfing some of these movements will be most welcome.   The tentative agenda to be discussed:

1. Implementation of "CIVIL with GIS" at grassroots level and 

2. "Scientific Renumbering of Urban Homes in India" and any other subject

PLEASE ALSO READ 'C I V I L with GIS' POSTED SEPARATELY  *

- thanks for the patience in reading this long post.

- Please mail vasanthmysoremath@gmail.com / or call 9845950440

- Vasanthkumar Mysoremath

* C.I.V.I.L - CITIZENS INITIATIVES for INNOVATIVE VOTERS LIST with

   GIS - GEOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION SYSTEM (digital presentation) - for identifying the needs of our street to enable service providers to plan their ward level budgetting/spending in a transparent and accountable manner and take up garbage clearance, water, power, roads, footpaths, trees, parks, encroachments etc., to make our life that much comfortable.  

 

   

Naveen's picture

Cost Will Be A Stumbling Block

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VKM Sir,

I appreciate your enthusiasm & the detailed posts above with regard to this issue. I refer to the original post made by Mr.Ananthram sir in this regard.

I have no doubts whatsoever about the country's capability to develop & use secure IT-enabled voting systems using biometrics. The major stumbling blocks in my opinion would be :

1) Very high costs for the necessary hardware.

2) Security for the voting systems. Even now, secure IT services within the country are available but for a select few applications where either revenue streams are guaranteed or in other priority areas such as defense, space research, etc..

3) Lack of know-how in operating, managing & maintaining such systems, especially in rural areas.

4) The formidable task of maintaining the very, very large database of the billion+ population.

E-filing of Income-Taxes (taken up several years ago) is only now taking shape for commercial taxes & is still some years away for all individual tax payers, who number only some 65 million.

Of course, once a start is made for E-Voting, the system can be enlarged step by step, but realistically, I dont think this will be possible within the span of a few years.

Vasanthkumar Mysoremath's picture

Cost factor? 7 kms. road Rs.100 crores-whose money?

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Naveen annayya,

Cost comes later. Question is whether it is implementable, sustainable, replicable, economical, green enough.  Most importantly whether it is citizen centric solution. If yes, it is worth it - isn't it? 

Sample these

- 1999 LS elections - public money -  expr. Rs.880 crores but 30,18,90,662 voters did not vote and the money spent for creating infrastructure for voting was a waste.

- 2004 LS - expr. Rs.1300 + crores - percentage of voting between 55-65 - Again money spent on those non-voters  was a waste - of course it is obligatory on the part of EC to spend that much of money for making arrangements because even Gandhiji expected every Indian to enjoy the fruits of democracy by casting his vote for creating a vibrant democracy ...but...?

- 2009 LS - probable expenditure from exchequer - Rs.10,000 crores (oh God!) II phase percentage - between 46 and 55.

- Bengaluru infra - more than 5000 crores spent on ill planned/ half baked/still incomplete infrastructure projects without futuristic ambience, eg., Flyover built at Ananda Rao Circle only to dump the traffic emanating from majestic area to Maharani's college and KR circles; under JNNURM- a central initiative, monstrous concrete transport transit centers with shopping arcades/malls are being built without aesthetic or heritage value.

- talking about tech savvy people - Have you ever given a thought as to how thousands of Cyber Centers are making a living?  Visit any of such dingy, ill kept, nauseate smelling, Cyber cafes/centers in slum areas and you will know how tech savvy our citizens are in getting the best out of IT.  Will they not be able to lap up voting? 

- Positive thinking and YES WE CAN attitude is the need of the hour - you have yourselves provided answers to your questions in the last two paras of your post.

-Let us move further -

-Vasanth Mysoremath

 

nishu's picture

@Anil

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I Completely agree with Anil's point of view. The whole point of having a democracy is to have discussion on important issues. Why do we need to vote only once in 5 years. There has to be more discussion on important issues and citizens opinions do matter.
psaram42's picture

Enabling Electoral Rolls, is it already done?

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 About the cost factor as per VKM

1.      1999 LS – Rs/- 880 Crores

2.      2004 LS – 1300+

3.      2009-LS – 10000

Assuming these figures as the total expenditure, I presume a part of these would have financed the company who actually contracted for providing the EPIC cards. Newly made EPIC cards are on computer (WWW) enabled I think because I checked my name being there in both LS AS electoral rolls, with the help of the EPIC.

I am having computer enabled cards like

1.      SBI Debit card

2.      Driving License

3.      PAN card

4.      Etc

My question is why the Luxury of providing seperate budget for each one of such requirement above? There is a big Tamasha going on for enumeration each time incurring renewed expenditure.

The records of birth and death are the source of any roll be it electoral, Banking, etc which have to be computerized.  In fact I am sure it is already done. With this as the starting point, we have the major task of computerization of voters list done once and for all.

The main problem is that all our government departments are happily computerizing independently there database of people. No body is bothered a damn, to link it up with birth and death. If the birth and death records are already computerized, where is the problem. Can we in Praja come up with workable birth - death linked solutions?

USA has something called social security number which is a mother of all solutions. If each birth/death is recorded on local computers at birth/death place it is done once for all.

PSA 

murali772's picture

@ nishu On your point about

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@ nishu
On your point about continuous interaction, perhaps the answer lies in

http://bangalore.praja.in/blog/murali772/2009/04/07/upper-houses-cities#comment-13669



Ananthram avare'
The unique ID issue has been discussed at length at

http://bangalore.praja.in/blog/murali772/2009/01/18/unique-id-citizens-voters-list-and-german-registration-system

Muralidhar Rao

Muralidhar Rao
nl.srinivas's picture

Social security number

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Hi,
  I feel social security number is the best solution for all these. The income tax department is introducing  biometric pan card  which can double as social security number (since no one else is using biometrics). Then a person will have one identification number and as PSA sir has mentioned everything else can be liked to this number. Maintaing this data base should not be a such a big hurdle.



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