rVoting

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What is rVoting or Remote Voting?

 

Remote Voting or rVoting, as the name suggest means the facility to voter to vote remotely without vising the booth. The voter has facility to vote from anywhere. Many people confuse rVoting or Remote Voting to be next generation of mobile voting. However, mobile voting is also a remote voting method and methods where mobile voting is restricted to booths are not really true 4th generation method.
Infact, many remote voting methods exists across generations. In generation 1 (paper ballot) postal ballot method of remote voting is very common. In generation 3, email based eVoting is example of remote voting.
In today’s world where all activities have moved online and people do banking, shopping etc online and remotely, it’s important that remote voting facility is made available to everybody so that nobody is denied their right to vote.
People use the terms eVoting, iVoting, mVoting interchangeable, however all are different generations of voting. Similarly, rVoting and online voting should not be interchangeably used with eVoting, iVoting and mVoting. We have tried to explain each of these terms below for your easy reference and understanding. 

I. Paper voting (Generation 1)

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 Paper voting or paper ballot is the traditional method of voting and still one of the most common form of voting. Before paper voting there were few other methods of voting like show of hands or dropping of coins in a vessel, however Paper voting can be considered the generation 1 of voting.

In paper ballot, the voter is provided with a paper with all the candidates names printed on the paper. The voter just needs to mark his choice of candidate and put the paper in the ballot box. After the voting process is over, all the ballot papers are taken out of the box and votes are counted. The person who gets the maximum number of votes is declared the winner.  


Advantages:

  1. Simple – Setting up paper ballot-based election is very simple as just ballot papers need to be printed. This method does not employ any technology
  2. Secret ballot – Secret ballot is possible as once the ballot paper is dropped into the ballot box, it becomes impossible to know which ballot paper belongs to which voter
  3. Commonly used – This is the most commonly used voting method. Hence there is no need of educating the voters in terms of the process.  


Disadvantage:

  1. Low Voter turnout – This method leads to low voter turnout as the voter need to be physically present at the booth to vote. Voters have to travel to booth and stand in queue to vote. Sections of the society who are not present in the city / village on day of voting miss out on voting. Similarly, people involved in essential services are also not able to vote. This include migrants, non-residents, travellers, soldiers, doctors, transport sector professionals, old people, physically challenged, patients etc. 
  2. Manual counting – The process requires manual counting of votes. This is not only time consuming but also error prone. Security threat – Paper ballot is suited only when it is one location voting. However, if voting needs to be done on large scale where multiple booths need to be created in different geographies then it creates a major security risk due to decentralization.  For example, in a country like India with 90 crore eligible voters, there would be requirement of more than 10 lakh booths across the country. In such case each booth and each ballot box are a risk in itself. There are lakhs of ballot boxes floating across the country in hands of lakhs of people. Anybody anywhere can replace one ballot box with another with false votes. There is no way to track or later audit if such change has been done. Other common security problem with paper voting is:
    • Booth capture
    • Obstructing of voter from reaching the booth
    • Switching of ballot boxes
    • Damage or loss of ballot boxes during transit
    • Duplicate voting
    • Voter impersonification – The act of using false identity to vote in place of somebody else

    Low quality manual authentication: Voters are generally authenticated before voting by visual recognition. Election officers try to match picture on identity card with voter face. This kind of authentication is very low quality due to picture quality. Also, it is very easy to create false identity cards.  

    Even in paper ballot there can be different kinds of voting including postal ballot, open ballot, secret ballot, proxy voting etc. These are explained later.  

II. eVoting or Electronic Voting (Generation 2)

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 As the name suggest eVoting or Electronic Voting is voting method where instead of paper, electronic machine is used for voting.

In eVoting, like paper voting a booth is created and people are supposed to visit the booth to vote. The only difference is that instead of marking their vote on a paper, they press a button to mark their choice. Voting machines are generally preferred over paper voting because of 2 major reasons: 


  • It makes counting easy, faster and error free
  • It avoids voter errors like making wrong marks, making marks between two boxes, marks elsewhere on the paper


Commonly used method of electronic voting is Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) as used in Indian political elections. Even EVMs have evolved over period of time and authorities mark them as generation 1, 2, 3 etc. Recently Indian government has added VVPAT (Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail) to EVMs to provide extra comfort to the voters that their voters are being recorded properly. 

Many people confuse eVoting with other advanced methods of internet enabled voting. Generally speaking, internet enabled voting is not eVoting as eVoting is basically voting via an electronic machine. However, it’s a common practice to club internet-based voting methods also under eVoting. This is more rampant when people want to club everything other than paper voting in one basket.  

III. iVoting or Internet Voting (Generation 3)

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iVoting or internet-based voting is generation 3 of voting system. In this method all electronic voting machines are connected via internet and all voting data is stored at a central server instead of the voting machine. In this method, like paper voting and eVoting, booths are created where voter is supposed to visit to vote. The voter votes on machines like in case of eVoting, and hence his experience is similar to eVoting but unlike eVoting in this case vote is stored in central server. These voting machines can be push button machines or touch screens. Generally, these machines are fixed at one place in the booth. 

The authentication of voter generally is still manual in this system as he is physically present at booth. However, some systems also have internet based automated authentication system.

Biggest advantage of this method over generation 2 eVoting system are:

 

  1. Counting: Votes are not stored in individual machines but in the central server. Hence real time counting, or instant counting is possible. Results can be declared as soon as voting is over. 
  2. Security: As votes are not stored in individual machines but it a central server, security risk of booth capture is avoided. Also, security is centralized and hence much better. Hacking of remote voting machines would not tamper results as votes are secured in central server.

 

The biggest concern people have with internet-based voting is that people worry that internet-based systems can be hacked, and results can be changed. However, these concerns are misplaced and many equally or more critical human activity has completely internet based today. These include banking system, stock exchanges, aviation control, traffic control, power grids, nuclear plants etc. Technology has advanced enough to ensure secure internet based voting.  

IV. Mobile Voting or mVoting (Generation 4)

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Mobile voting or mVoting as the name suggest means voting via machines that are mobile. Mobile phones are good example of mobile voting. In mobile voting, voter is not expected to be physically present at booth to vote. A voter can vote from anywhere.

There are different varieties of mobile voting, and in certain varieties, the voter is still expected to visit any of the designated booths to vote. This ensure secrecy and avoids coercion. However, the voter can go to any booth and as the screens are generally internet enabled touch screens, customized ballot paper can be presented to voter which is not the case in case of eVoting machines. 

In this method, voter authentication is automated. The voter is authenticated by methods like:

  1. Biometric verification 
    1. Fingerprint 
    2. Face recognition 
    3. Iris scan 
  2. OTP based verification based on mobile number of email ID 
  3. Chip card-based verification

 

Automated authentication is very important in this method as voter has the option to vote from multiple location. If automated authentication system is not provided, there is a risk that voter might vote multiple times from different locations. The automated authentication system not only ensures that right person is voting but also ensure that same voter is not voting twice as it also stores data of who has voted and who has not voted along with vote data. 

The biggest advantage of this method over previous generation voting methods are: 


  1. Voter turnout – As voter can vote from anywhere, the voter turnout is much higher. People need not be present in their town to be able to vote. Migrants, non-residents, soldiers and other such class who are not able to vote in booth-based voting system are able to vote in this system. In many cased voter turnouts increase several times due to mobile voting specially in cases where voting is held at single location while voters are spread across the world. 
  2. Full proof voter authentication – As voter authentication happens via biometric or other methods its far superior to manual voter authentication. System based voter authentication eliminates double voting and false voting. Voter impersonification is also eliminated. 
  3. Cost saving – In mVoting as the voter is voting via their own mobile instruments there is no requirement at election managers end to provide voting machines. Also, there is no need to set up thousands of booths across the country to facilitate voting. This helps in eliminating more than 90% of the cost of election management. 
  4. Effort saving – As no booths are required and humans are not required to man these booths the effort required in election management is substantially saved and savings might be as high as 99%. The whole process starting from voter authentication, to voting to counting is automated and does not require any human effort. 


The biggest concern people have with mVoting is possibility of coercion as voter is voting remotely via their own mobile handsets. To avoid this few organizations creates safe enclosures like booths where voter can come and vote using their own handsets. Voter is restricted to vote outside the booth via IP address, secret key or some other method. However, such mobile voting is not true 4th generation mobile voting and leads to high cost and low voter turnout.

Coercion is a genuine concern however its implication is over exaggerated. Firstly, the percentage of population which is venerable to coercion is limited. The percentage of people who lose their right to vote due to booth-based voting is much higher than percentage of voter who are venerable to coercion. Hence benefit outweighs the risk. 

Secondly, there are technologies to avoid coercion which include facility to voters to change their vote, picture and sound recording while voting, vote concentration alarm based on IP address. 

V. rVoting or Remote Voting

 Remote Voting or rVoting, as the name suggest means the facility to voter to vote remotely without vising the booth. The voter has facility to vote from anywhere. Many people confuse rVoting or Remote Voting to be next generation of mobile voting. However, mobile voting is also a remote voting method and methods where mobile voting is restricted to booths are not really true 4th generation method.
Infact, many remote voting methods exists across generations. In generation 1 (paper ballot) postal ballot method of remote voting is very common. In generation 3, email based eVoting is example of remote voting.
In today’s world where all activities have moved online and people do banking, shopping etc online, it’s important that remote voting facility is made available to everybody so that nobody is denied their right to vote. 

VI. Proxy Voting

 Proxy voting means when a voter is himself not able to vote, he appoint somebody in his place to vote. Proxy voting was created due to limitation of booth-based voting systems (Generation 1, 2 and 3 – paper voting, eVoting, iVoting).
Proxy voting is not an efficient system as it compromises on secret ballot and also the procedure for proxy voting is so cumbersome that it rarely used by voters in real elections. However, the biggest issue with proxy voting is that proxy might vote against the wishes of the voter.
In India, voting by proxy is allowed for service voters like armed forces personnel. Indian government is looking to provide proxy voting to non-residents also. However, proxy voting is not a desirable method and mobile voting is far superior method to solve same problem of providing right to vote to voters who are not present at the place of registration.