ELECTIONS ON BLOCKCHAIN: THE ROAD FORWARD
2019 shall be a busy year for Indian Politics as the 17th Lok Sabha Elections will be held in the forthcoming year. In the light of the atmosphere of election pressure, Indian Prime Minister along with the Council of Ministers have been pushing forward the proposal of One Nation One Election which essentially means conducting One Election for different Tiers of Democratic Government which are responsible for Governance of the Country. As has been said by reports published by Law Commission of India (170th Report, Point No. 12), the Election Commission of India as well as the Parliamentary Committee report of 2015, this shall bring a positive revolution in the current election system and shall decrease huge financial burden of the State which arises due to almost 5-7 elections conducted on an average every year. The reports also suggest that this shall lead to the leaders of the country getting more time for good governance but at the same time this will need a number of amendments in the existing constitution of India and the Bill will require to be passed with a 2/3rd Majority in the Parliament.
Few points mentioned above are some of the key debating issues that surround the One Nation One Election Debate and similar to this, there are various factors which ought to be considered before implementation of One Nation One Election like extension or Dissolution of Tenures of State Assemblies to conduct simultaneous elections across the Country, Parties coming to consensus with the recommendation of the ruling Government and many more.
This article won’t deal with the existing debate but will go a step further and shall discuss the road forward if the plan of One Nation One Election gets implemented and how can its be done in the most efficient way possible.
The Law Commission of India have supported the idea of holding simultaneous polls for all states along with the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. The committee’s recommendations, in the form of a draft report, have been uploaded to its website. We can say the same about the Election Commission of India as they have also assented to One Nation One Election. Though the idea of it seems very plausible but it falls short in the scale of pragmatism. The Financial Burden which is being talked about might still be there as New EVMs will have to be installed and since these only have a shelf life of 15 years, the expense of the Government might still be there. Also, what government fails to recognise here is that one of the major road blocks to free and fair elections is the turnout of the voters. In an atmosphere of Technological advancement and time being the most valuable asset, it’s become difficult for the working community to turn out, stand in line, wait for the headcount & then wait for their turn so that they can cast their vote. This is one of the major reasons why we never have a good election turnout. Now, imagine a system where you can avoid any kind of fabrication or fraud in voting, a system where you can sit at home and cast your vote without taking the pain of even going out of the house, a system which is transparent and is an advancement of the present voting mechanism. This imagination can now be a reality and this can be achieved by leveraging Blockchain Technology to conduct a free, fair and all inclusive elections.
The parent technology behind Bitcoin is still not something which the Government of India is very accustomed with as it has shown its reservations against it. But it is high time that the Government parts ways with the pre-existing inhibition and embrace Blockchain as a revolutionary technology which can ease up business as well as Good Governance. As has been reported by Mike Montgomery on Forbes,
Blockchain is being touted as the magic bullet that could end money laundering, let homeowners sell self-generated electricity back into the grid and even revolutionise economies in Africa.
While all of those blockchain dreams may one day come true, the use that I find the most compelling is voting.
To substantiate this claim, we already have a used case or a proof of concept with the example of Sierra Leone which sometimes back ran the first Blockchain Elections. Interesting to note that this year also marked the highest turnout for Voting for Sierra Leone which was 70%. The company which was responsible for this accomplishment was Agora which has a vision of a secure and transparent voting.
According to the white paper published by Agora,
“Agora’s voting solution offers full transparency and public verifiability over the entire voting process, including to third party observers. This is achieved through Agora’s public blockchain, called the Bulletin Board, where data is stored throughout the election process. Any party can verify the validity of an election as well as all intermediate steps of the voting process.
In addition to permitting outside analysis, Agora enables each voter to verify that his or her vote was accurately recorded and that it remained unaltered. In this way voters play a key role in ensuring a fair election and can place their trust in the electoral procedures. Election results are also publicly available to all stakeholders on our blockchain along with cryptographic proofs of their validity.”
Now, to solve the problem of corruption within the organisation conducting elections, it is also necessary that they do not hold any user data and they use no one’s privacy is infringed.
As has been published by Forbes in one of its articles,
“According to a recent analysis by the Pew Research Center only 55.7% of the voting-age population cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election. That ranks us 28th out of 35 highly developed countries in terms of voter turnout — behind countries including South Korea and Australia. Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, everyone can agree that as a country, we need to do better than that. Having a way to vote online would obviously be an easier solution, but online voting comes with its own set of problems. It’s not very secure and opens the door to fraud.”
The cost of implementation of this is also considerably low as a digitalised election can make way for digitalised ballot papers and that can be further driven through the cryptographic auditing capabilities which is a fundamental characteristic of a well architected Blockchain Platform. It is easy to understand that when a digital auditing method is being used instead of a manual method, the margin for error also drops down to zero, the cost of auditing becomes negligible and the reliability of the results become a 100%. Also the cost of establishing physical polling station also goes away which ca further lead to greater savings of the Tax Payer’s monies.
Forbes, in a report advocated a similar opinion saying,
Blockchain is a distributed ledger that operates on multiple computer nodes. Every time a change is made to the chain (in this case, someone new casts a ballot), the entire ledger is updated. Because the information is not being stored in a centralized location, it’s virtually impossible to hack. Mobile phone technology, like fingerprint and face recognition, helps ensure that the person casting the vote is who they say they are.
Voatz, a startup out of Boston, is one company building a platform for blockchain voting. The company, which recently raised $2.2 million in venture funding, is starting to experiment with New England open town meetings, which typically attract only around 200 people who make decisions that can affect the entire town. It’s a small-scale experiment that could lead to big changes in the way we vote.
Since the US presidential Elections are also due in 2020, there are some states like the State of California which has already dedicated $134.3 million to aid, research and Development efforts that as being assumed includes open-source systems. We saw during the last elections, some states even questioned the functioning of EVM and came up with a defence of corrupt EVM to evade their liability of loss. With a distributed ledger system, since it’s almost impossible to tamper it without getting noticed, these bogus claims can also be shunned once and for all.
As mentioned in a source report,
“Blockchain technology is already being used in Estonia for shareholder voting, and Nasdaq recently ruled the Estonia experiment safe enough to allow firms to start using blockchain for proxy voting. While there are no magic bullets, blockchain shows real promise for improving the way we vote.”
With all being said, yes we cannot neglect the fact that India is a huge country and conducting Elections on Blockchain shall involve a complete reconstruction of the entire system and at the same time possibility of expenditure on training of manpower shall also arise. This makes it impossible to conduct 2019 elections on Blockchain but in future, there’s a high possibility that the Government shall come up One Nation One Election leveraging Blockchain System in order to eliminate huge risks, errors and financial burden on the Central & State Treasury.