Saturday, June 4, 2011

Safeguarding against Corruption in Elections

With all the hue and cry over corruption and systemic changes required in this country, I was wondering what would be the one thing that I would want to change. Having great interest in the political systems and processes of this country, and having tracked elections closely for the last six years, my mind wandered around for a bit with issues like funding of elections, cleaner candidates, right to reject etc. However, one fundamental issue that struck me as very critical yet ignored, was the issue of trusting the whole electoral process when you cast your vote. It is not unknown for political parties to claim mass rigging of the electoral process even after the advent of EVM's. Some argue that with EVM's mass rigging has become faster and more difficult to detect.

So what can be done to restore faith or increase the faith of voters, and the participants in the electoral process? The Aadhaar program (UID) is undertaking a massive drive to make a biometric database of all residents of the country and is expected to complete this process sooner than later. We should use this great tool by incorporating this into the current electoral process in addition to the Voter ID cards and photo electoral rolls. What I propose, and many others may already have proposed, is the use of biometrics as authentication before a vote is cast. The EVM can match the biometric information from a physical thumb (or finger) impression placed directly over the EVM, with a database of the biometric information on the EVM itself. Relevant biometric information can be downloaded onto the EVM for the voters of the booth beforehand in an encrypted format by the election commission officials.

The election officer will release a vote (like he does now) and if the biometric information matches that in the database of the EVM the vote will be cast. The EVM should also be programmed to allow only one vote to be cast for one match. 

This process will not need the EVM to be on a network, hence not impractical in far flung areas. Obviously, the election officers will verify the photo id card as well. In certain cases, where there is a problem with the match, a voter can cast his vote as a "Contested Vote", along the same lines, as in case someone has already cast your vote in today's scenario.

This is by no means thoroughly whetted solution to this problem, but a solution, that was difficult to implement earlier, but now with plans for UID already in place, seems feasible.

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