Other links:

Other links:

Governance and Elections

Democratic practices and public administration in India have also had a socio-politically complex relationship with digitalisation. Consider digital elections: while protocols for secure, End-to-End Verifiable Voting (E2V) have been around for quite some time, their implementation has been hampered because they are technically complex and any viable electoral procedure should be easily appreciable by the public. 

Academic initiatives have an important role to play in making digital elections feasible in a manner appropriate to India’s democratic environment.

Protocols for End-to-end Verifiable Voting have been around for quite some time.

🤔 Widespread adoption has been hampered because the underlying cryptography is not intuitively appreciable by the public, a requirement for any democratically viable voting method.

🎟️ Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) using paper records (VVPR) is a possible solution, but the public has to trust the post-election chain of custody.

Despite decades of research, an intuitive electronic voting protocol that combines 🎫 VVPR + 🔒 cryptographic security with all of the following is yet to be identified:

  1. Recovery from errors: if the voting system fails to verify an election, how can it recover a legitimate result from the same voting data without having to run an another election?
  2. Secret ballot: voter privacy is of particular importance to an unbiased result, and it should be impossible to identify how one voter or a group of voters contributed to the result.
  3. Voter authentication: especially in contexts with large populations, it becomes a particular challenge to link voting systems with sound and complete voter registries.

In such a context, interdisciplinary research in conjunction with 👣 Sociology/Anthropology  and 🏛️ Political Science is required to:

  1. We need to create a framework that explains how the current election environment in India functions
    1. where it could be compromised,
    2. where it is inefficient, 
    3. where it excludes individuals, and 
    4. what networks of trust guarantee its legitimacy.
  2. We need to develop systems for conducting elections at the national and state-level, feature VVPAT, and efficient methods of error-recovery, secret ballot and voter authentication in light of the vulnerabilities and trust relationships revealed in the previous exercise.
  3. We also need to assess this system for possible vulnerabilities and create a risk framework for: error recovery, voter privacy, incorrect authentication, and arbitrary exclusion.

Starting with voter lists, interdisciplinary research can also help reconcile the tension in public registries, between citizen privacy and public verifiability.

Making the voter registry public has been understood to be crucial in achieving legitimacy. The Registration of the Elector Rules of the Representation of the People Act requires this: 

Art. 10. Publication of roll in draft.—As soon as the roll for a constituency is ready, the registration officer shall publish it in draft by making a copy thereof available for inspection . . .”

But this also brings with it serious privacy concerns:

  1. It allows individuals to be digitally profiled for a variety of purposes. 
  2. This profiling may itself be used to conduct inappropriate election campaigns and undermine the democratic system.

Similar concerns also apply in part to:

🏠  Property records

💰  Tax records

👶  Birth records

The use of a blockchain could present a novel solution to these challenges. The CS department at Ashoka is already exploring this possibility.

Study at Ashoka

Study at Ashoka