Cell phone survey? Telangana to Test India’s First Electronic Voting System

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Representative image | Credit: Dhiraj Singh / Bloomberg

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Hyderabad: Upcoming elections in Telangana could see a major shift in the voting process, with the state government bracing for a dry test of the very first smartphone-based electronic voting system in the country.

The system allows voters to vote through their mobile phones, by downloading an app.

A mock election will be held to test this app on October 20 in Khammam district, and all eligible voters in the district can participate by applying on the app. from October 8 to 18.

The initiative of the electronic voting system was taken by the Telangana State Election Commission (TSEC) and implemented with the support of the Emerging Technologies Wing of the Department of Electronics and Communications of the State, with technical development by the Center for Development of Advanced Computing (CADC).

The technical development was also guided by an expert committee comprising Professor Rajat Moona, Director of IIT Bhilai and Technical Advisor to the Election Commission of India, and professors from IIT Bombay and IIT Delhi.

According to a statement released by the Emerging Technologies Wing, which was also shared by the office of IT Minister KT Rama Rao, the mobile app will perform three-factor authentication of valid voters using intelligence. artificial.

This includes matching voters’ names to their Aadhaar cards, live detection of individuals and matching their image to the EPIC (Election Photo Identity Cards) database with records dating back 15 at 20 years.

“In addition, Blockchain (Distributed Ledger) technology has been used to secure anonymized and encrypted votes so that they are kept as immutable records,” the statement read on Wednesday.

He added: “The smartphone app follows a minimalist design approach and supports both English and Telugu, and also has a detailed help section with video tutorials and a phone number. telephone assistance to help citizens. “

However, experts such as former chief electoral commissioner SY Quraishi have voiced concerns about the dangers of online voting and the ease with which it can be manipulated, “which is why the Indian Election Commission is ignoring it. did not consider “.


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Mobile app details

The test will be carried out using the Android application “TSEC eVote”, which is a “security enhanced” application to prevent tampering, the statement said. It also links the device ID and phone number to a specific citizen during registration to ensure that the same device is used for voting to improve security.

The whole process will be monitored and controlled by the administrator using a web portal, in which the generation and access to the results is further protected by the requirement of a token-based decryption of physical security.

Data collected by the app will also be stored in State Data Centers (SDCs) as an additional security consideration.

According to the State Election Commissioner, C. Partha Sarathi, the commission is autonomous from the Election Commission of India and is free to implement changes in the electoral process in the state.

“The State Election Commission also derives its powers from the Constitution, so no approval as such is required from the ECI when the SEC wishes to implement something new. And the e-voting solution is only in test states, if we want to implement it or run a pilot project, the SEC will need to get the consent of all political parties first, ”Partha Sarathi told ThePrint.

ThePrint has contacted the Indian Election Commission by email for comment, but received no response until this report was released.


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“Voting on the Internet can be manipulated”

Warning of the pitfalls of this decision, the former CEC Quraishi told ThePrint: “Developing an app is a snap, the problem lies in implementation and credibility. In a country where EVM technology, VVPAT technology (something that we have developed and used after 40 years of experimentation) is being challenged in the Supreme Court, it would be foolish to think that such a thing would be accepted. Internet voting can be manipulated, which is why the ECI did not consider it.

He added: “When you go to the voting booth, no one knows who you are voting for. But with such apps, anyone can come home and bribe people or threaten them to vote for a certain candidate. Secrecy cannot be guaranteed at home.

Srinivas Kodali, an independent researcher working on data and governance, also said that if implemented, app-based voting poses a risk to the idea of ​​a ‘secret ballot’ and that the “Source code” of the application can not guarantee secrecy.

“The fundamental principle of free elections is the use of the secret ballot and this approach poses a risk to the idea of ​​it. For example, there is a bug and to correct it, you will have to look at the source code of the application. How can they ensure secrecy in such a case? Kodali told ThePrint.

“And there has to be a public debate when such decisions are made and if the government wants to implement them, a government decree has to be passed. And why is the statement on this matter coming from a government office, should it not be just the office of the electoral commission? How can a government be so proactively involved in this area? “

Kodali also highlighted how Kenya’s electronic voting system in the 2017 presidential election created challenges. The country’s IEBC (Independent Electoral and Delimitation Commission), at the time, had said that an “unsuccessful attempt” to hack the voting system was made a week before the election.

(Edited by Rachel John)


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