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17 Jul 2019, Edition - 1464, Wednesday

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Coimbatore

Can online voting in India quell EVM controversies?

Vidyashree Dharmaraj

Can India vote online? This continues to be a moot question not only because of the “EVM tampering” controversy that rears its head every time there is an election but also because there are several people who wanted to vote could not for a variety of reasons, ranging from being sick to being immobile or to not being in the country or being caught up in some genuine commitment that prevents them from getting to the place to cast vote, physically.

Of the 19,58,577 electorate in the Coimbatore constituency , only 12,53,415 voted in the recent Lok Sabha 2019 elections. Which means over seven lakh voters of the Coimbatore constituency did not cast their votes.

With times changing and everything now being done online, why can’t we have voting online? Can E-Ballot be a feasible option, given accessibility to a secured internet connection?

The Covai Post conducted a survey with a small sample of 150 persons from Coimbatore. The age group of those undertaken for the survey ranged between 20 years and 70 years. A majority of the people felt that voting from their desktop or mobile phones would be a convenient option and that would also improve the percentage of polling.

They, however, expressed apprehensions about the security aspects of polling online. Many experts also believe that the potential security threats of an online voting system may outweigh the benefits of using online polling for an increased voter turnout.

But V Rajendran President ,Digital Security Association of India, points out that fingerprints of the electorate already available under Aadhaar can be matched for authentication. For those under Below Poverty Line, the biometric system is already under place. Apps are also available to register fingerprint and they can be matched with Aadhaar to authenticate the voter online.

The voting can involve four steps: One – fingerprint authentication; Two – Display of the symbols of the contestants and give one minute to cast the vote; Three – capture the vote and encrypt the voter’s identity and Four – alert that the vote is cast. The person who the voter has voted for can be displayed on the screen for 15 seconds.

U P Prakasham of Nebula Solutions has already designed a platform for electing office bearers in associations and clubs. This can be extrapolated to a larger scale, he says. Computer terminals with Touch Screen Monitors provided in covered enclosures manned by operators can be booths. Authorized voters with authorization slips from the organisers (Election Commission in this case) are permitted to cast their votes.

The final results are announced after consolidating of all the data from different booths with printout. The results are also posted in the website ( e.g. PollIndia.com) created for the polling process. A secret code may be provided to the voters as an optional feature for them to verify their votes after the results are out in the web site.

The other method could be that the voters could vote using the website at the predetermined date and time by entering the authorization code sent by the EC to the e-mail ids of the voters or to their mobile phones. The website will allow the voter only once to log in and use the authorization code.

Only the vote string and the secret code are stored in the data base as encrypted data. The authorization code used to login is dropped and not stored. The voter can identify his/her vote after the results using the secret code provided by the system known only to the voter.

In both these methods secrecy and verification are the primary criteria. Otherwise a simple login for authentication and allowing the user to vote is sufficient. For the benefit of the voters the system will also provide information on whether the vote has been cast to the intended person.

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