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TBA Exclusive: Will online nominations for elections work?

There have been several campaigns and voices from across India on online voting as well as demand for online filing of nomination during elections. Will governments of the future include online voting or online nominations? Is India ready for such a huge step digitally? 
 
In an interesting turn of events, AP BJP leader Somu Veerraju demanded the State Election Commission recently to permit online filing of candidates’ nomination for the upcoming Panchayat elections in the state. 
 
The context for this goes back to the fact that the ruling YSRCP government has been pushing for maximum panchayats to declare themselves unanimous in order to win the election. However, what has been brewing in the process is threats to candidates who were willing to file nominations and eventually, pushing them to back off from the contest. 
 
Online filing makes it easy 
 
Therefore, the Opposition parties in the state are currently demanding the SEC to open online filing of nominations which can happen without fear and fairly too. But, is such a step possible in our country today? Definitely yes! 
 
Online filing of nominations can be a great way for candidates to quickly declare themselves as part of the contest. In fact, it is also an affordable way to do so. But can they apply to voting? Is e-voting possible? 
 
The right to vote is the essence of a true democracy. Internet voting or e-voting has a paramount effect on increased civil participation. It becomes an incentive to young people who are up to date with the comfort and convenience of internet technologies.
 
Internet voting promises convenience, ease of accessibility, cost savings, fewer errors and most intuitively an easier way to manage the counting of votes. The idea is a revolution in itself. It primarily aims at the section of the population that has a high internet usage and is technologically sound to use it. 
However, it does come with some hurdles owing to the technological limitations. The risks fundamentally stand to challenge electoral integrity — the very basic promise of a Democracy. 
 
Internet doesn’t help remove paper trail
 
Maintaining transparency and the confidence of the public in the election, reliability of the process, and the authenticity of the citizen alongside the total anonymity of the same is a challenge in today’s era of penetrating technologies. 
 
The fact that the process of election requires dissociation of identity of the voter from the vote cast makes it impossible to audit the process. The trail cannot be maintained if it has to be deleted. Further, if any evidence of tampering with the process comes to light, there is no way to get back to the previous state.
 
For an e-voting implementation to be acceptable, it must essentially meet a three-fold set of requirements to be compliant to election legislation and principles, to be at least as secure and reliable as the regular voting process and to be as similar to the regular voting process as possible.
 
The invisibility and intangibility factor that arises from the virtualization, threatens risks of large scale frauds, and presents a compromise with transparency, reliability and the ability to audit the election process. Scalability, in turn, diversifies the issues exponentially. 
 
Nevertheless, the idea needs to be nourished more in order to find the right set of implementation strategies. Continuously improving attempts can be sustained at a small homogeneous level as advancements emerge and better options are made available.For now, maybe, we need to do pilots and keep testing until we have proven implementation and efficient strategies to handle it.
 

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