List of Contents
- Introduction to the Election-related issues
- Registered Unrecognised Political Parties are not transparent : ADR report
- “Remote Voting Project” – Election Commission tries out new innovation
- What is the “Remote Voting Project” by Election Commission of India?
- Kenneth Arrow’s paradox and why elections are flawed
- Importance and steps for‘Free, fair and safe’ elections amid pandemic
- Karnataka MLC disqualified for being appointed as minister: HC
- Credibility of exit/opinion polls
- US Federal Election Commission Vs Indian Election commission
- Power of Election Commission Of India
- SC stayed the EC decision on the Star Campaigner | Nov. 3rd, 2020
Introduction to the Election-related issues
This section of polity will deal with the basic aspects of the Election-related issues to India, such as its evolution, features, preamble, sources, etc.
Election related issues updates/news
Registered Unrecognised Political Parties are not transparent : ADR report
What is the News?
Association for Democratic Reforms(ADR) has released a report titled “Analysis of Donations received by Registered Unrecognised Political Parties”. The report underlines the lack of transparency among Registered Unrecognised Political Parties.
What is Registered Unrecognised Political Parties?
If a party satisfies any one of below-mentioned criteria, then they are called Registered Unrecognised Political Parties. The conditions are
- If the political party is newly registered
- If the political parties not secured enough percentage of votes in Assembly or General Elections to become a State party
- Political Parties that never contested in elections since they got registered with the Election Commission.
These parties don’t enjoy all the benefits extended to the recognised parties such as reserving a separate symbol for the party, subsidized land for party office etc.
- The number of registered unrecognised political parties has increased two-fold from 2010 to 2019. From 1,112 parties in 2010 to 2,301 in 2019.
- State-wise: Of the total of 2,301 registered unrecognised parties, 653 parties or 28.38% belong to Uttar Pradesh. This is followed by Delhi (291 parties or 12.65%) and Tamil Nadu (184 parties or 8%).
- The number of these parties has increased disproportionately during the year of Parliamentary elections between 2018 and 2019.
- Donations: These parties received 90 crores from 12,998 donors in two financial years (2017-18 and 2018-19). Among that, 65.63 crores or 72.88% of the total declared donations belongs to Apna Desh Party of Uttar Pradesh.
- Contributions Report: Only 78 or 3.39% of the total 2,301 registered unrecognised parties donation information is available in the public domain for 2018-19. For 2017-18, the reports are available for only 82 parties or 3.56% of the total registered unrecognised parties.
Source: The Hindu
“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 More – Remote 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.
What is the “Remote Voting Project” by Election Commission of India?
What is the News?
As per Election Commission, the remote voting project would be launched soon.
What is the Remote Voting Project?
- A remote voting project will enable a voter to cast his or her franchise from any polling station in the country. It will remove the compulsion on voting only at the polling station, where the person is registered.
- This program would help lakhs of voters who live outside their home constituencies for work or education.
- The project is being developed by the IIT-Madras using blockchain technology.
What is an e-EPIC?
- It is an Electronic version of the Electoral Photo Identity Card(EPIC). It would be a non-editable PDF version of the EPIC. Furthermore, it can be downloaded on the phone and stored on the DigiLocker app or printed from a computer.
- All general voters who have valid EPIC numbers would be able to download the Electronic version of the Electoral Photo Identity Card.
Source: The Hindu
Kenneth Arrow’s paradox and why elections are flawed
Synopsis- Theory of Arrow’s paradox and the impact of loss of concentration
- The mechanics of all elections are flawed. The mathematician Kenneth Arrow laid bare the flaws in elections.
- The internet helps the minority voice to instigate a large part of the populace. The recent U.S. presidential election is an example of this.
What is Arrow’s paradox?
The theorem is named after mathematician and Nobel laureate Kenneth Arrow, who demonstrated the theorem in his doctoral thesis in 1950.
He identified that in any electoral system where three or more options exist, a curious paradox comes into play. Views of the minority voice can dictate the broader choice. His finding is now called Arrow’s Paradox.
- A set of population has three preferences in the run-up to an election which pits binary choices against each other – A= go to war or B= Don’t go to war.
- the voters will be distributed along three lines as follows:
- The minority – The hawks, those who want to go to war.
- The majority of voters but are roughly equally split.
- The doves, who prefer not to go to war under any circumstance.
- The realists, who don’t want to go to war unless it’s absolutely necessary.
- The minority hawks have the ability to dictate the outcome by convincing the realists by prevailing on the realists that war is actually needed.
- Arrow’s Paradox can cause an election which should have a predictable outcome to become a farce since the outcome can be gamed to allow minority factions to prevail.
How arrow paradox theory swayed US elation result?
People now generally lose concentration after eight seconds, highlighting the affects of an increasingly digitalized lifestyle on the brain.
- The recent events such as Proposition 22 in US elections have proved this phenomenon.
- Uber, Lyft and other gig industries poured money into their ‘Yes on Proposition 22’ campaign, raising over $200 million and the courts to preserve their business model by keeping drivers from becoming employees eligible for benefits and job protections.
- Misleading campaigns- 58% of more than 11 million voters choosing to keep drivers classified as independent contractor, without the additional steps needed after that to get to the truth.
- The outcome was a defeat for labor unions that had pushed for a state law aimed directly at Uber and Lyft, mandating they provide drivers with protections like minimum wage, overtime, health insurance and reimbursement for expenses.
It is certain that there will be future attempts at influencing elections using both intense messaging which takes advantage of our shortened attention spans as well as the setting of agendas of electoral choice which Arrow first described.
Importance and steps for‘Free, fair and safe’ elections amid pandemic
Synopsis: EC should ensure ‘Free, fair and safe’ upcoming elections in the states of Kerala, Tamilnadu, West Bengal, Assam and Pondicherry (UT).
- Since the pandemic broken, Millions of people have exercised their political right to vote in more than 34 countries, including India (In Bihar).
- With the reappearance of a variant of covid virus in countries like Britain, human beings exposing themselves to the risk of getting and spreading infection through this exercise of franchise is immense.
- So, it becomes crucial that when elections are announced ECI should pay equal attention to both the election (democratic process) as well as the constitutional rights “right to life” as enshrined in Article 21 and “right to lead a healthy life” as held by SC in Sunil Batra vs. Delhi Administration.
- But as a life with liberty will be pure theory if a person’s life itself is placed in danger. Thus, there is a need for taking additional measures while announcing elections.
What are the precautions that needs to be taken while conducting elections in these states?
As the upcoming elections in Kerala (140 seats), Tamil Nadu (234), Puducherry (30), West Bengal (294) and Assam (126) are scheduled in the coming months. Following steps should be taken to ensure the people’s right to health life;
- First, the senior citizens who are more vulnerable to infections should be enabled to vote in the first three hours of the voting using a separate queue-lane.
- Second, Personnel scheduled to be drafted for election duty including security staffs needs to be identified as a priority category for getting vaccinated.
- Third, every voter entering a booth must be asked to wear mask like the mandatory requirement of Voter Identity card.
- Fourth, ECI needs to repeat the precautions that were taken during Bihar elections such as reducing the numbers of voters per booth, increasing the number of booths, thermal testing each voter and making postal votes available to senior voters above the age of 80.
Commitment to political freedom and a compliance with pandemic mitigation measures are an unavoidable contradiction It is the constitutional duty of the state to protect and reduce the risks of pandemic hazard to as near zero as possible while allowing citizens towards their constitutional entitlement of universal adult franchise. Elections during the pandemic must be made safe from the virus to protect the Democracy.
Karnataka MLC disqualified for being appointed as minister: HC
Source: Click here
News: Karnataka High Court has held that Member of Legislative Council(MLC) Vishwanath stands disqualified under the anti-defection law and hence cannot be inducted into the state cabinet.
- Background: A petition was filed in the court alleging that AH Vishwanath had been appointed as member of the Legislative Council(MLC) for the sole purpose of making him minister despite the fact that he had lost the bye-polls.
- The petitioner argued that he was still disqualified as per the Supreme Court judgement which upheld former Assembly Speaker’s orders for disqualification.
- The plea maintained that a disqualified member can become eligible to hold the position of a minister only if they win the bye-elections from the same constituency.
- What was the judgement: The Karnataka High Court has held that AH Vishwanath has incurred disqualification under Article 164(1B) and Article 361 B of the Indian Constitution.
- Article 164(1B): It states that any member of the Legislative Assembly either the house or the council, belonging to any political party, if disqualified as a member of the Assembly, shall also be disqualified to be appointed as a Minister for the period of their disqualification.
- Article 361B– It states that a member of a House belonging to any political party who is disqualified for being a member of the House under Tenth Schedule shall also be disqualified to hold any remunerative political post for duration of the period commencing from the date of his disqualification till the date on which the term of his office as such member would expire or till the date on which he contests an election to a House and is declared elected whichever is earlier.
- Anti-defection law: It is contained in the 10th Schedule of Constitution.It was enacted by Parliament in 1985.It lays down the process by which legislators may be disqualified on grounds of defection by the Presiding Officer of a legislature based on a petition by any other member of the House.
Credibility of exit/opinion polls
Context: Prediction of Election outcome through Exit polls and opinion polls have not been accurate.
Some examples where election prediction has miserably failed?
- The example of the Venezuelan recall referendum of 2004: The exit poll that predicted Hugo Chávez to be recalled however, Hugo Chávez won in the Venezuela Referendum
- In recent Bihar elections: The exit polls, mostly predicted a Rashtriya Janata Dal victory with huge margin however the NDA proved exit polls are wrong.
- US presidential elections 2016: Hillary Clinton consistently led Trump in national polls in 2016 however Trump won the election.
What are the reasons for such failures?
- Principles of statistics ignored: Pollsters do not follow the statistical principles properly in designing, sampling, and analyzing their data.
- Lacks holistic coverage: They do not cover remote corners of the country and cover sensitive booths for their surveys.
- No scope for Margin of error: The standard requirements of 3 percentage points as margin of error is not adhered.
- Selection bias: The samples selected by them does not maintain the proportions across gender, age, income, religion, caste, and other important factors.
- Issues in method of sampling: Non responses are not properly tackled and the aspect of ‘random’ sampling is not given adequate importance.
US Federal Election Commission Vs Indian Election commission
Context: Comparison between Indian U.S. Federal Election Commission and Indian Election commission
What are the Issues pertaining to the functions of U.S. Federal Election Commission?
- The Commission has hardly been able to function in the last year because of resignations.
- The Commission haven’t passed a single order since August 2019, owing to lack of quorum, for which at least four members are needed.
- As a result, several hundred matters lie pending before the Federal Election Commission.
Lack of consensus:
- The six posts of Commissioner are supposed to be equally shared by Democrats and Republicans.
- This has created a situation where decision making was often divided on partisan lines.
- During the recent Presidential election, when there are allegations over election process the President decided to appeal only to the U.S. Supreme Court without any reference to the Federal Election Commission.
How different is U.S. Federal Election Commission compared to Indian Election commission?
- Origin: The Federal Election Commission was established recently in 1975, with the special mandate to regulate campaign finance issues. Whereas Election commission of India came in to force on 25th January 1950.
- Members: The Federal Election Commission is led by six Commissioners. Whereas Indian Election commission consists of one Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners.
- Scope: Federal Election Commission has a much narrower mandate than its Indian equivalent. In India, by virtue of being the custodian of the electoral roll, all matters related to keeping the roll updated, fall under the ECI’s domain and ECI enjoys enormous power.
- Role of Judiciary: In India the role of the judiciary is limited post the election period. Our constitutional makers were clear that if election-related petitions were entertained during the course of the election process, it would impede the process and delay election results.
- Scope of Postal ballot: In the 2016 U.S. election, almost a quarter of the votes counted arose from postal ballots. In India we have confined postal ballots to only a few categories, of largely government staff, the police or armed forces.
Ever since our first election in 1951-2 our political parties, both losers and winners, have invariably accepted the results declared by the Election Commission of India, allowing the transfer of power to be passed on in a smooth manner.
Power of Election Commission Of India
Electoral System of India :Power of Election Commission Of India
Context: Power of Election commission of India to enforce poll norms and clean campaigns.
Background of the issue
- Former Madhya Pradesh chief minister, Kamal Nath, while campaigning for a by-election to the Madhya Pradesh Assembly recently used the derogatory word “item” for a BJP woman candidate.
- Following this, the ECI revoked the star campaigner status for Kamal Nath.
- The Supreme Court has recently stayed the order issued by the Election Commission of India (ECI) revoking Kamal Nath’s status as the star campaigner of the Congress party.
What is star campaigner status?
- It is a privilege given to few candidates. The expenditure incurred on the campaign by those from the list of star campaigners is not included in the expenditure of the candidate concerned.
- It ensures that some leaders can charter helicopters and travel extensively to cover more territory and constituencies without breaching any individual candidate’s spending limit.
Why the court stayed ECI’s order?
- Section 77 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, which relates to a candidate’s election expenditure, empowers the political party to decide itself who its “leaders” are and list of ‘star campaigners’ to the election authorities.
- It is against the right to campaign without incurring electoral expenditure on the candidates’ account.
- Stating that the EC has no power to withdraw the status of star campaigner submitted by political parties the Supreme court stayed the Election Commission’s order.
What were the arguments made by ECI?
- The ECI has cited the clause in the MCC (non statutory) that bars candidates from resorting to “criticism of all aspects of the private life, not connected with the public activities” of other leaders and party workers.
- Also, the ECI has made reference to the Supreme Court’s observation that when laws are absent, the ECI can invoke its residuary power to meet an infinite variety of situations that cannot be foreseen by lawmakers.
What is the way forward?
- The ECI needs to be empowered to revoke the status of a campaigner, if there is an apparent breach of campaign norms or the Model Code of Conduct.
- ECI’s power to enforce poll norms and clean campaigns should not be
SC stayed the EC decision on the Star Campaigner | Nov. 3rd, 2020
Supreme Court stayed EC decision on Star Campaigner Status.
Supreme Court in a recent judgment stayed the Election Commission’s October 30 order, canceling the ‘star campaigner’ status of former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath.
Before cancellation of the status Election Commission had issued a written warning to the former CM for his remarks on an opposition leader.
About the SC judgment
SC in its judgment said the Election Commission had no power to determine who should be ‘star campaigner’ of a political party.
As per the petition, Section 77(1) of the Representation of People Act, 1951 read with Guidelines for Star Campaigners issued by the Election Commission, from time to time, makes selection/revocation of ‘star campaigners the sole prerogative of the political party.
Who is a star campaigner?
A star campaigner is a famous personality campaigning in an election for a political party, who can be a politician, or even a film star, and is famous among the general public. There is no law governing who can or cannot be made a star campaigner.
They are nominated by the concerned political parties specifying their constituencies and duration of the status.
Is there any law or guidelines governing star campaigners?
There is neither any strict law governing who can or cannot be made a star campaigner nor the definition of ‘star campaigner’. However, EC after the announcement of polls issues guidelines for the Model Code of Conduct that regulate poll campaigns by candidates.
Under Section 77 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, the word ‘leaders of a political party’ has been used for the same.
As per guidelines:
- A ‘recognized’ party declared as such by the Election Commission – can nominate a maximum of 40-star campaigners.
- An unrecognized political party can nominate a maximum of 20 star campaigners.
Recently EC revised the guidelines for star campaigners in view of COVID safety norms. As per the revision:
- The maximum limit on the number of star campaigners for recognized National/State political parties has been reduced to 30 in place of 40.
- For unrecognized registered political parties, the number has been limited to 15 from 20.
Model Code of Conduct (MCC)
- The model code refers to a set of norms laid down by the Election Commission of India, with the consensus of political parties.
- MCC bears no statutory backing and remains unenforceable.
- It spells out the dos and don’ts for elections. Political parties, candidates, and polling agents are expected to observe the norms, on matters ranging from the content of election manifestos, speeches, and processions, to general conduct, so that free and fair elections take place.
- The MCC is operational from the date that the election schedule is announced till the date that results are announced.
Read – All about Model Code of Conduct
Why political parties appoint star campaigners?
As per the popular belief, star campaigners attract a large no. of voters compared to ordinary campaigners, but it has more to do with the poll expenses than the fame of star campaigners.
The Election Commission keeps a tab on expenditure incurred by individual candidates during campaign Rs 70 lakh for most states in one constituency by each candidate.
As per Section 10A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, An incorrect account or expenditure beyond the cap can lead to disqualification for up to three years.
Expenditure incurred on electioneering by the star campaigner is not added to a candidate’s poll expenditure giving him/her more leeway.
According to the Representation of People’s Act, these expenses will be borne by the political parties. But there are few guidelines that are required to be followed:
- The star campaigner has to stick oneself to general campaigning for the political party.
- Entire campaign cost except expenditure incurred on traveling will be added to the candidate’s election expenses if star campaigner shares the stage with a candidate. This applies even if the star campaigner seeks vote for the candidate taking his or her name.
- The expenditure incurred on the rally will be shared equally by the contestants if more than one candidates share the stage with the star campaigner
- If the candidates are not present but their posters or photographs have been displayed in their constituencies where a star campaigner holds a poll rally, the entire expense will be added to the election expenses of the contestants.
Guidelines for PM acting as a ‘star campaigner’
- The MCC guidelines say when a prime minister or a former prime minister is a star campaigner, the expenditure incurred on security including on the bullet-proof vehicles will be borne by the government and will not be added to the election expenses of the party or the individual candidate.
- However, if another campaigner travels with the prime minister or a former minister, the individual candidate will have to bear 50 percent of the expenditure incurred on the security arrangements.
Read more – Issue of star campaigners during Delhi elections