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Turn to Blockchain: Why the ECI should look beyond EVMs for Assembly and Lok Sabha polls

It's time we start looking at Blockchain as a viable solution to restore people's faith in the idea of fair and free elections.

 |  4-minute read |   11-12-2018
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Even as the world's biggest democracy, India, is in the last leg of its 2018 Assembly polls, questions over the security of EVMs and how they could be tampered with to swing results in crucial polls states just don't seem to be coming to an end. 

After Madhya Pradesh went to the polls on November 28, senior leaders from the principal opposition party in the state, the Congress, alleged the possible rigging of stored EVMs when news emerged of a CCTV glitch in one of the halls storing electronic voting machines.

Much like the ones we've seen before, this particular allegation hints at how little faith we have in the technology currently being used to decide the fate of our democracy – and by extension, the multiple facets of our lives.

Yet, as it stands, the authorities involved insist on the use of EVMs in the future, and are only muddying waters some more when they talk about bringing into the mix solutions such as Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) – an added complication that will do little to assuage fears over the tampering of voting machines, once they leave polling booths. 

This is making us wonder if it's indeed time we started looking at more modern and secure technologies to put uncomfortable questions over the rigging of elections to bed, once and for all. 

poll-copy_121118035546.jpgEVMs — just too 1980s! (Photo: PTI)

Using Blockchain for voting 

Luckily, the Election Commission of India (ECI) won't have to look too far if it decides to replace the rather 'modern' EVMs – a method first trialed in India as far back as 1982. 

As we move into 2019, we have in front of us the Blockchain – a technology far superior and secure than electronic voting machines – that can truly revolutionise the future of elections in our country. 

Now, for the last two years, Blockchain technology has been in the news for forming the backbone of cryptocurrencies. So much so that Blockchain almost became synonymous with digital currencies such Bitcoin, Ripple and Etheruem.

However, little talked about is the fact that cryptocurrencies are just one of the many use case scenarios where Blockchain can be used. 

According to experts, more than web-based currencies, the Blockchain – which in essence is a secure and transparent decentralised digital ledger – could be used more effectively to carry out our essential democratic processes such as polls. 

How Blockchain works

But before we get to why Blockchain voting could work for India, it will be prudent to understand how the Blockchain technology works and what makes it unique. 

As we have mentioned earlier, Blockchain is essentially a decentralised ledger, which is created using thousands, and possibly millions of computers, where each computer serves as a block, on which connected parts of encrypted information of the chain is safely stored. 

Now, as we know, it's entirely possible to hack into a computer and thus, quite possible to even alter the heavily encrypted block data stored on it. But, since the data is spread across millions of computers in an interconnected chain, any fraudulent alteration to even a single block corrupts the whole Blockchain, thus making this technology virtually impenetrable.

Another crucial aspect about the Blockchain is that, owing to it being a decentralised technology, every user within a block on this chain is a custodian of their own personal block and as such, are always in the know of how their block is affecting the chain.

blockchain-copy_121118035608.jpgCan Blockchain revolutionise how elections in India could work? It's worth a try. (Photo: Facebook)

Why it could work for India

First things first, by employing Blockchain technology to the world's biggest voting event – India's Lok Sabha Polls which, in 2014, came at a cost of Rs 3,424 crore – we could complete the process at a substantially lower cost, and, all the while, in a much more secure manner.      

Application of blockchain technology would eliminate the scope for voter fraud as it would give every citizen a clear record of the vote they have cast.

Further, as opposed to electronic voting machines, the process would not involve a delay between polling and results as the referendum to even the biggest of our elections could be declared real-time — thus greatly reducing the chance of fraud in elections. 

Additionally, going truly digital with our polls will allow the voting process to move out of the polling booths and safely onto our smartphones.

This would help not only in making the polling process much more convenient but also safely reach out to voters in terror-affected areas who'd otherwise shy away from polling booths for the fear of their lives. 

Countries like the United States have already started trialling Blockchain voting in limited capacities. As such, there is no reason why the ECI should overlook the benefits of Blockchain for voting in favour of EVMs – a technology that many invested in the democratic process of our country have lost faith in. 

Also read: Assembly election results: Pakistan declared results for national election in one day. What is taking India so long?

Writer

Sushant Talwar Sushant Talwar @sushanttalwar

Tech journalist, DailyO

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