ByÂ MehulÂ Gala:
Technology has grown at a breathtaking pace in the last century. Innovative products and services have been developed to lead the whole society towards a better tomorrow. Almost everything nowadays is going online to utilize variety of benefits that the Internet has to offer. But why nothing so far has been done for a service that will affect virtually 814 million people across the nation? Is online voting really a distant dream? I’m sure all of you must have heard plethora of debates on this topic but none of them yielded any fruitful outcome so far. The implementation still remains on the back-burner.
Here are some common arguments that I keep hearing time and again.
Prone to Hacking
Security concern is the biggest roadblock for online election voting to come to life. What if security of such system is compromised? How can we trust it? How will it survive from phishing pages, denial of service attack, man in the middle attack and many such types of bait spread by hackers to trap voters? Such questions are being raised by many people who rely on the very same Internet for money transactions from their life’s earning stored in some remote computer via net banking. If online banking solutions and payment gateway systems have reached foolproof levels of security, there is no doubt in my mind that online voting systems can’t emulate the same.
Heavy load can lead to website failure.
Catastrophic events, such as heavy traffic, are omnipresent for every popular websites. Most of them show anomalous behaviour when they are subjected to network congestion. Be it a cricketing website during high voltages matches, railway websites during ticket booking window or even our infamous university websites during declarations of semester results. But they still survive. New technologies such as load balancing, creating replicas and mirrors and vast data centres in every major city come forward to bail them out in crunch situations. Online voting systems can use such high tech solutions and stand tall in times of adversity. Also, EC can conduct elections in various phases and different slots for each city to ease out the burden.
Vulnerable to Fraud
Authenticity of voters is the biggest challenge for online voting systems. How can we make sure a person who is casting a vote is actually the person for whom he/she is casting the vote? For years, immense risk of forgery has brought all online voting debates towards a dead end. This is where, I feel, UID can play a vital role. Biggest advantage of UID is its bio-metric data. EC can make UID mandatory to cast votes and maintain a database of the same. People can vote online from the official website or the official mobile app against their UID. Only one vote will be accepted per UID which eliminates the risk of continuous bombardment. Once the vote is successfully accepted by the system, a random token id (Or some distinguisher) can be generated, unique for each user session. You can take a print of this document; put your thumb expression on it, thereby authenticating yourself. Scan it and either upload it back to the portal or send it via courier to EC office.
No Internet connectivity or computer in our premise.
Another valid concern I must say. This is precisely the reason why offline voting medium should continue as it is. The target user for online voting will be those who have migrated from their native place in search of job, education or residence and are currently staying in another Indian city or abroad and can’t travel back to cast their votes. Undoubtedly, this medium will boost voting percentage from meagre 50-55% seen in metropolis Indian cities like Mumbai and Bangalore. So, next time, when your boss doesn’t give you leave on the voting day, instead of showing the middle figure behind his back, you can straightaway show your thumb to him, on his face.
US have not yet adopted such medium then why should we?
An absurd question but I’ve seen many people put forward this as an argument. Well, India doesn’t have to wait for US all the time. India can scale and set new heights, at will.
On a concluding note, online voting is an experiment worth trying irrespective of massive gloom surrounding it. After all, it’s the technology that drives us and not vice versa.