Link Aadhaar to EVM, Enable biometrics for voting
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The Government of India has done a great job by implementing Aadhaar through Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). This is in like with the Social Security number implemented in the United States (USA) as implemented through Social Security Administration. Aadhaar number is unique to every Indian citizen and stores the biometric and demographic details of the individual in a centralised database. It has been credible linking Aadhaar to Permanent account number (PAN) making it practically essential for filing tax returns. The same has the nod of the Supreme Court (SC) of India. I propose that Aadhaar be linked to Electronic voting machines (EVM) in such a way that biometrics become essential for voting. Of course, for that to happen the Aadhaar would need to be linked to the Electors Photo Identity Card (EPIC) i.e. Voter ID card first.
The proposal to link Aadhaar to EPIC had already been placed by the Election Commission of India (ECI) when on 27 February 2015 it issued guidelines for linking EPIC with Aadhaar as part of the National Electoral Rolls Purification and Authentication Programme (NERPAP). However, a Supreme Court order dated 11 August 2015 put a halt to this ambitious project of the ECI. With another Supreme Court order allowing PAN to be linked to Aadhaar, hopes have resurfaced for this to happen. We, as common people of India, can show our support for this change and help the ECI pull it through.
It is noteworthy that this is not the only petition with this agenda on change.org. However, out of more than 20 other petitions that have cropped up at around the time of this petition, the efforts can unify and converge. Apart from signing this petition I would insist you to join the facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/aadhaar.for.voting/ and help the movement to grow.
The utility of Aadhaar in voting can come in two forms:
- It can be used as a substitute of manual verification of the voter through voter card. Aadhaar can be linked to voter cards and the EVMs can be modified so that a simple biometric punch will confirm is the voter status is legitimate. Storing the votes independently in a different database will ensure that confidentiality of the votes is maintained.
- It can act as a basis of e-voting system which can be done through a voting app similar to BHIM installed on mobile phones enabling people to vote from home just as they securely avail online banking at their convenience. Biometric identification through linked Aadhaar or OTP enabled systems will ensure the transition of the elections onto the digital age.
This can have a number of advantages:
- This will not only ensure transparency in the process of voting but will make it tamper-proof and would ensure that electoral frauds do not happen. It can ensure simple, easy yet effective identification of voters through verifiable fingerprint scans (biometric scans linked with Aadhaar). This can therefore eliminate the avenues for spurious voting, problems in relation to individuals having dubious credentials, use of multiple fake identities by same individual for voting multiple times at one or more centres. Various other forms of electoral frauds including booth rigging or other dishonest means of 'stealing' votes can be averted. The scope of various forms of malpractice, corruption and unscrupulous activities would also be grossly reduced.
- In fact, if the subsequent e-voting is implemented people would no longer need to go to voting booths to vote. People would be able to vote from home (or workplace) without needing to go to voting booths. No more standing in long queues. No more time-consuming voter ID checks. Just open app, anywhere, validate, and vote.
- The cost of organizing elections (on the part of the government) can be grossly minimised with minimal manpower expenditure. If e-voting is implemented, there would be huge amount of savings of national resources (on the part of people) as people would not need to take a leave and travel costs can be minimised. Government spending would be further reduced as there would be no need to spend on EVMs or other equipment that can be used for nothing other than elections.
- There would be no need to deploy huge amount of paramilitary forces throughout the country for seamless voting process. The risk of political rioting would be grossly reduced as people would not need to accumulate anywhere.
- The mobile penetration in the country is high and the use of mobile internet is already in place. Thus re-use and improved utilization of the existing infrastructure can revolutionise the process of elections in the coming days.
- Faster and hassle-free process for calculating and declaring results.
- This is in accordance with the Digital India initiative and can be a revolutionary approach. This would not only be an innovative and futuristic approach, rather India would establish itself as a fore-runner once again.
- Phased roll-out plan for the entire implementation is possible.
- For people without smartphones or fingerprint sensors OTP enabled steps may be implemented. The BHIM-like voting app can be complemented with voting booths for people who do not have mobile phones or smartphones.
The requisite infrastructure for the process is almost in place already.
- Almost all of the voting population in India now has Aadhaar. Aadhaar Saturation in >18 Years Age band 98.3% (Population 804,431,255 & Aadhar 790,567,780) [Ref-1]
- With more than 1 billion mobile users the mobile phone penetration in India is huge and is growing steadily.[Ref-2]
- Smartphone penetration in India is huge and is growing steadily. [Ref-3]
Let me also mention that there have been a number of academic papers which discuss the various aspects of Aadhaar based voting.
- and many more
Although the erstwhile Chief Election Commisioner (CEC) H. S. Brahma had expressed the willingness to get it done, his ambitious projected was halted by a Supreme Court order. He passed on the responsibility to his successor CEC Dr. Nasim Zaidi and now he too has retired while Achal Kumar Joti has now taken over as CEC. Unless we, citizens of the Republic of India please endorse this proposal and express our willingness to get it done, this would not happen on its own. Help in enabling the use of Aadhaar to enhance the process of our democracy and bring even more transparency in the process.
Having said all the above, let me mention that each development comes with additional responsibilities. Any progress demands diligent handling of the additional liabilities it brings to the table. Like all systems, this prospective development can be vulnerable to potential abuse if not implemented properly in the first place. Unlike booth-capturing, detection of evidence of tampering in a e-voting environment would be extremely difficult. Trust is a major factor here. Moreover linking Aadhaar to our vote means the voting process needs to extremely secure and hack proof. We would certainly not want the ruling party to know who you voted for or whether you even voted or not. Therefore each of the stakeholders needs to commit that the security and the anonymity of the system would be ensured.
- State/UT wise Aadhaar Saturation Crossed 83% of India Population (Stats as on 30th September, 2016) : CorporateCases
- India Just Crossed 1 Billion Mobile Subscribers Milestone And The Excitement's Just Beginning : Forbes
- Number of smartphone users crosses 300 million in India as shipments grew 18 percent : Firstpost
- Linking Aadhar with voter ID card will remove duplicacy in voter list: CEC H S Brahma: Article on Financial Express dated March 22, 2015
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