Locking at the immense potential that Blockchain can offer to voters residing in interior parts of the country, the Election Commission of India (ECI) is mulling to implement new technologies in the world’s largest democracy, where over a billion will vote in 2024.
For this, ECI has inked a partnership with Tamil Nadu e-governance Agency (TNeGA) and also recently organized a webinar on ‘Technology aspects of remote voting: Exploring Blockchain’ to have a wider consultation exercise with various stakeholders to dwell on different aspects of remote voting.
It is important to note that the Tamil Nadu state government very recently announced its own Blockchain technology policy becoming the first state in the country to do so.
Speaking on the potential usage of Blockchain, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sunil Arora said that the election commission was close to solving one of the biggest voting problems in the country and is working with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Chennai to develop a Blockchain system that will allow voters registered in any part of the country to exercise their franchise even after they move cities.
With the adoption of new technologies, many people did not vote because they are unable to get to their polling booth on voting day, can now do it from their hometowns. To make the system transparent and fair, ECI has proposed to link voter identity cards with Aadhaar, a 12-digit unique identity number that can be obtained voluntarily by residents or passport holders of India, which is issued by Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) under the Indian Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
Geographical barriers cut voting by over 300 million
According to reports, during the 2019 general elections, about 300 millions of voters could not vote for various reasons, out of the 900 million eligible voters in the 2019 elections.
The webinar connected technologists, academicians, policy practitioners, cybersecurity experts from India and around the world.
The idea of using Blockchain technology in the voting process came during CEC’s visit to the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras in October 2019.
Arora said Blockchain system in voting has been one of the most-explored use cases of new technology in many jurisdictions. Blockchain can transform tax filing, voting, land registry, healthcare, creating tamper-proof voting records, vehicle registries, fraud-proof government benefits disbursements, and digital identities for individuals.
In his address to the webinar, Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra stressed the importance of ensuring greater ‘inclusiveness in elections’. A large number of voters are unable to exercise their franchise on account of a geographical barrier. By virtue of occupation, education, medical treatment, or other reasons, there have been instances of current residence of such electors being different from the place of registration in electoral rolls.
Another challenge was the movement of people in the country, according to an estimate, over 450 million people moved from their hometowns for reasons such as jobs, education, or marriage. In order to provide a solution to these people, Blockchain can play a very important role.
Chandra however stressed that in designing a technology-based solution, the primary consideration should be the ability to ‘inspire trust of all stakeholders, assure integrity of electoral process and secrecy and inviolability of ballot’.
Political parties need to be reassured that the system is tamper-proof and secure. Remote voting marks a departure from the conventional polling station, which was tied to a geographical location, Chandra underlined.
Not an internet-based voting from home
Making it clear that ECI is not foreseeing internet-based voting from home. Blockchain-based remote voting project will enable voters residing in remote locations, away from their designated polling stations, to cast a ballot in a secured manner.
With more than 800 people with the global experience of blockchain technology, dwelling upon possibilities of scalability; issues of data privacy and regulation; data security; authentication and verifiability participated, Chandra expressed optimism that deliberations amongst experts will help the Commission in designing a robust remote voting model which is more inclusive and empowering.
The participants and speakers of the webinar included Principal Scientific Adviser to Government of India, Prof K Vijay Raghavan, Director of IIT Bhilai, Prof Rajat Moona, Director of IIT Madras, Prof Bhaskar Ramamurthi. Sandra Ro, CEO of Global Blockchain Business council, Monique Bachner, Member of International Association for Trusted Blockchain applications, Ismael Arribas, President of Kunfud Spanish chapter of Government Blockchain application also addressed different sessions.