“Remote Voting Project” – Election Commission tries out new innovation

Source: The Hindu

Gs3: Science and Technology- Developments and their Applications and Effects in Everyday Life.

Synopsis:  ECI is planning to implement a remote voting project. It must analyze the issues of the system before its implementation.

Remote Voting Project

  • Recently, the Chief Election Commissioner  (Sunil Arora)  announced that it is starting trials of a “remote voting project”.
  • IIT-Madras is developing the system for the “Remote Voting Project” by using  Blockchain technology.
  • The concept of remote voting became popular during the COVID-19 pandemic to address social distancing.

Read MoreRemote Voting Project 

How voting technology developed over time?

Since the beginning, EC has been facing challenges in ensuring a fair and just voting system for the country. Over the years, it has introduced many changes for that.

  • In the initial phases, ECI  used the “paper balloting” method to conduct elections in India.
  • However, the “paper balloting” method was subjected to malpractices such as ballot stuffing and booth capturing.
  • Due to this weakness, ECI introduced  Electronic Voting Machine in India (EVM). EVMs are able to stand intense scrutiny, because of their standalone single-chip device. This device is not connected to any network.
  • Recently,  Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) are added to the EVMs. It enhanced the ability to verify the voting.

Now, ECI has started trials in the “Remote Voting Project” that uses blockchain technology. This system will definitely face the same level of scrutiny, that faced by EVMs.

How blockchain-based voting system work?

  • This technology has been already in use for cryptocurrencies. It is used to record a list of transactions that can be used to find out who owns which bitcoins without any centralized authority.
  • The blockchain method uses an online public bulletin board that is public and available for anyone to read and verify.
  • The voting authority will have to authenticate this bulletin board.
  • Further, The public bulletin board allows for a linear ordering of data that ensures only a user can add data.
  • This allows the users to sign in to the bulletin board using cryptographic signatures to register their votes in a ledger.
  • The blockchain-based voting system with its cryptographic features, promises data security and verifiability.

What are the issues in using a blockchain-based voting system?

  • The use of blockchain-based voting systems will depend upon a network. It will also face all the online vulnerabilities that devices are facing at present.
  • Also, a  recent draft paper by MIT and Harvard researchers pointed to serious vulnerabilities in the designs of a remote block-chain-based voting system.
  • The research paper also claims that blockchains will introduce issues related to complexity and their management.

The ECI should be cautious before deploying this method in elections.

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