Voting Technology in Modern Democracy

Modern day elections are conducted using electronic voting machines (EVMs) which provide a secure way to cast your vote. Some of the countries using this technology include Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Estonia, France, Germany, India, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Peru, Romania, Switzerland, UK, Venezuela, and the Philippines. Voting machines have different levels of usability, security, efficiency and accuracy. Certain systems may be more or less accessible to all voters, or not accessible to those voters with certain types of disabilities. They can also have an effect on the public’s ability to oversee elections.

               

First Voting Machine

In 1898, Gillespie and inventor Jacob Myers, whose patents informed Gillespie’s work, organized a company that became Automatic Voting Machine Company. Myers gave the first demonstration of a voting machine in an 1892 Lockport, New York, town election.
How It Works

A Direct Recording Electronic System is essentially a computer. Voters view ballots on a screen and make choices using an input device such as a bank of buttons or a touchscreen. The voting machines used in India are a combination of two components. On the first component, the Balloting unit, the voters press a button corresponding to their selection. The second part is called the Control unit. This unit gives supervising power to the polling officer stationed at the poll booth. The two units are connected by a five-meter cable. The voter places his/her vote on the Balloting unit which is placed inside the Voting compartment.

Hardware

  1. Micro controller 89S52
  2. Max232.
  3. LED’s, switches, Buzzer.

Software

  1. Keil Software as Compiler.
  2. Proteus for Circuit Designing.
  3. Protel for PCB Designing.
  4. VB software.

Prevents Frauds and Booth Capturing

If by booth-capturing one means taking away or damaging of ballot boxes or ballot papers, this evil cannot be prevented by the use of EVMs as EVMs can also be forcibly taken away or damaged. But if one looks at booth capturing as a case of miscreants intimidating the polling personnel and stamping the ballot papers on the symbol and escaping in a matter of minutes, this can be prevented by the use of EVMs. The EVMs are programmed in such a way that the machines will record only five votes in a minute. As recording of votes has to be through the Control Unit and Balloting Unit, votes can only be recorded at the rate of 5 per minute. In the case of ballot papers, the miscreants can distribute all the 1000 odd ballot papers assigned to a polling station, among themselves, stamp them, stuff them into the ballot boxes and run away before police reinforcements arrive. In half-an-hour the miscreants can record only a maximum of 150 votes, by which time, chances are police reinforcements will arrive. Further, the presiding Officer or one of the Polling Officers can always press the “close” button as soon as they see some intruders inside the polling station. It will not be possible to record any vote when once the ‘close’ button is pressed and this will frustrate the efforts of the booth-capturers.

How are EVM’s safeguarded against fraud?

In India every EVM has an identity number attached to it, which is recorded in the Election Commission’s database. This ID is cross-checked against the database when it is being transported to and from the election booth. This process is done before the counting of votes begin.

Controversies 

There have been many controversies about the technology breaches and the EVMs tampering. In India the EVMs are not connected to any network, so no attackers can connect to these EVMs. There many been also reports that all buttons in the EVM are linked to the same political party and so any vote in the EVM will increase the votes of a single party.

Understanding Democracy

System

The word “democracy” describes a political system. In a democratic country, all eligible citizens have the right to participate, either directly or indirectly, in making the decisions that affect them. U.S. President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) defined democracy as: Government of the people, by the people, for the people. Democracy is by far the most challenging form of government, both for politicians and for the people. The term democracy comes from the Greek language and means “rule by the (simple) people”.

Government

A functioning democracy is the form of government that provides its citizens with the most freedom, the most opportunity, the greatest prosperity, unity for a cause and the most comfortable life. It is also the most stable form of the government and by far the most efficient. The best thing is that the common man in the country has an opinion and his opinion can be heard by the government.

“It has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried”– Winston Churchill

Direct Democracy

In a direct democracy people decide the policy initiatives directly– this is different from the most common system today, representative democracy. Direct democracy is similar to, but distinct from, representative democracy, in which people vote for representatives who then enact policy initiatives. In India at village level, we have direct democracy, “gram sabhas” i.e. “village assembly”. All the registered voters of the village are members of the sabha and they meet to take decisions.

Representative Democracy

Representative democracy (also indirect democracy) is a type of democracy founded on the principle of elected officials representing a group of people, as opposed to direct democracy. This is a type of democracy followed by the western countries like United Kingdom, Ireland and United States.

Inefficiencies

Some economists have criticized the efficiency of democracy, citing the premise of the irrational voter, or a voter who makes decisions without all of the facts or necessary information in order to make a truly informed decision. Another argument is that democracy slows down processes because of the amount of input and participation needed in order to go forward with a decision. A common example often quoted to substantiate this point is the high economic development achieved by China (a non-democratic country) as compared to India (a democratic country). According to economists, the lack of democratic participation in countries like China allows for unfettered economic growth.