EC Explores Blockchain Technology for Remote Voting
While exploring the following steps to overcome geographical barriers while casting votes, Election Commission officials investigated the potential of using blockchain technology to enable remote voting. A blockchain is a system in which the database of recordings (a ‘chain’) arrives on multiple computers simultaneously, even as it is updated with any new digital information (‘a block’). This distributed collection of data has led some to declare that this system can overcome issues of over-centralization.
Speaking at a webinar organized by the EC and the Tamil Nadu e-Governance Agency (TNeGA), Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra said, “How can we set up special remote polling stations when suppose a person is in a different place than their voter registration? This is a departure from a conventional polling station… Can we think of a machine that can generate a dynamic ballot paper? …We can look at the distributed consensus mechanism. How transparent is this? Is my vote a secret?”
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Chandra revealed his interest in geographical hurdles in voting. He stated that different industries had trialed blockchain technology, but there are conflicting views on scalability. Still, she emphasized that alternative systems must be “transparent, live, auditable, and develop a perception of being very clear in the voters’ minds.”
Other EC officials talked of solid demand for remote voting mechanisms. “Today, our process is tied up to a geographical location. I am sure we can work out this (blockchain) technology. The big issue is to find a secure, safe, trustworthy system. This is a huge task but a pious task. This will facilitate easy participation for those categories of voters who cannot come to the polling station,” EC Secretary-General Umesh Sinha said in a statement.
Deputy Election Commissioner Ashish Kundra said, “The desirability of moving ahead… is something we should inspire for. The question is: what is the right technology model which will inspire trust amongst stakeholders?”
Principal Scientific Adviser to the government K VijayRaghavan, nonetheless, was optimistic about blockchain’s potential in remote voting, citing research from Northeastern University in Boston, the US. “I don’t see major pitfalls in using this (blockchain) system in major locations. I would urge the EC to try this out as a mock exercise in some locations on a small scale and keep having stress tests to ensure it is durable. Then we can go onto the next level of having mock elections where people can take part using EVMs for their real vote and a mock vote… There may be pitfalls, but it’s possible to address those pitfalls,” he said.
IT Additional Secretary Rajendra Kumar explained how the imminent data protection framework could further expedite the process. At the same time, MyGov CEO and National e-Governance Division CEO Abhishek Singh drew on blockchain experiments in land records.
Meanwhile, Sandra Ro, CEO of Global Blockchain Business Council, said, “India is primed to lead globally on how we transition to next-generation voting systems.” She drew on pilot examples from the 2018 US mid-term elections, stating that there needs to be a bridge between security concerns and technological innovation.