Thursday, April 17, 2014

Voting Tech

I was very happy when EVM's were introduced for voting. A quicker, more efficient technique of counting votes. Vote counting happens in 2 to 3 hours, as compared to the 30 to 40 hours of manual counting (and remuneration). Able to cater to 64 candidates, the current EVM's can record only 3840 votes, which is surprising, because even if you allocate 25 bytes per vote, 3840*25 comes to less than 1MB. Every polling station having an average of 1400 voters, this seems like a reasonable decision. Their way of choosing the right hardware for the right purpose.

The votes stay registered in memory for more than 10 years (an Engineering estimate) even without the battery. And guess what? With EVM's, there are 10000 tons of ballot paper saved = 2,00,000 trees saved.

The control unit of the EVM is designed to be standalone. They do not transmit results to the Election Commission even though they could, if they used RFC4418's Universal Message Authentication Code. Having not used UMAC is good, because the eventuality of remote tampering is avoided. Given the strict security that it is under, it's said to be unlikely that anyone would get the chance to tamper with it.

What if you don't like any candidate?
If people feel their vote does not count, or that there's no good candidate, I'd encourage them to at least show up and choose the NOTA option on the voting machine. It's useful, because if NOTA receives a majority vote or a plurality vote, formal procedures would be invoked, like leaving the office vacant, attracting action such as having the office filled by appointment, re-opening nominations or having another election (more info on how to find info about candidates, below).
The real problem though, is not with the voting machines. It's with people not receiving their voter ID's and not figuring on the voters list. Hope that could be addressed first, before the media persecutes non-voters from not voting.

Did you know of the other types of voting machines world over?

Images are from Wikipedia. These are the permissions for file reuse.

The other useful piece of tech I'd like to draw your attention to, is Google's tool which helps us find info about the Lok Sabha candidates and our constituency Member's of Parliament (MP's). They say they source their info from the Association for Democratic Reforms, PRS Legislative Research and Liberty Institute India. It was nice to look up the candidates in my area and was surprised that many of them had criminal cases against them. The map has the facility of typing the pin code too, but it didn't work correctly for me. I was taken to some other city when I typed. I've reported the error to Google; hope they work on it.

Do have a look at candidates in your area:

Now even Bing has come up with info on elections; using animations like the ones in d3.js.

For queries on voting:
There's (a page which could be re-programmed to load faster) Jaago Re FAQ.

The page on the ECI though, was a bit disappointing because it couldn't find me :) Possibly the database isn't up-to-date.

As a tech person, although I'm happy to see so many advances in the availability of data, what I'd really like to see is good governance. I don't support any party when I say this, but to me, statesmen like Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru, Mr.Manmohan Singh and Mr.A.P.J. Abdul Kalam are people I admire, because they kept the dignity of their posts and kept their focus on development. Hoping to see technology bringing a change in the way data about politicians and the work they do is presented to the public. Less of advertising and more of real development work and good governance.

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