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EVMS versus Paper Ballots: Push The Button Or Press The Thumb

 EVMS versus Paper Ballots: Push The Button Or Press The Thumb

Assistant Editor

09 Apr, 2019

Democracy is derived from the Greek word "Demokratia" in which "demos" mean people and "kratos" means rule. This literally translates to "rule by the people". Democracy is a system where the citizens of a country directly or indirectly through the process of voting elect their representatives. It is a form of government was the supreme power is vested in the hands of the people. In a democratic system of governance the people choose their government by voting through a system of representation which usually involves periodically held free elections. 

Greece or more specifically Athens is supposed to be the birth place of democracy. From the time of ancient Greeks both the theory and practice of democracy has profoundly changed and evolved. It initially started as direct democracy, which was possible within small group of people however, it gradually evolved into representative democracy when direct voting became cumbersome amongst mass. After centuries of refinements, elections have become the most effective and interesting feature of representative democracy.

In ancient Athens direct democracy was in practice and it had two distinct features; the random selection of ordinary citizens who would fill the few existing government administrative and judicial offices to carry out the work assigned to them and there was a legislative assembly consisting of all the citizens of Athens. All the eligible citizens were allowed to speak and vote in the assembly; however, women were not part of this voting process nor were slaves, foreigners, non-landowners and men under 20 years of age. The Athenians used stone voting ballots to cast their votes. While in Apella the Spartans elected their leaders and cast their votes by range voting and shouting. The method in Sparta was simple and was practiced to prevent any bias voting, or cheating which was predominant during the early democratic election process.

What are the different methods of voting? The different methods of voting are either voice votes, raising a vote and show of hands. The other methods of voting include a recorded vote and balloting. There are electoral systems which are detailed constitutional arrangements and set of rules or voting systems that are set to make sure that a free and fair election are conducted and the results determined. These political electoral systems are organized by the government. The electoral systems are the set of rules that govern every aspect of the voting process, the date and time of election, who can stand as a candidate for the election, how the votes will be cast and counted, setting limits on electoral campaign spending and many other factors that have an effect on the final outcome.

There are several voting methods that are used for electing the representatives in a democracy. 

Paper-based method; the most common method of voting is using the paper ballots which has the names of all the candidates from different political parties along with a space where the voters mark their preferences. There is also an alternative paper-based system known as the ballot letters. This method is practiced in Israel where the polling booths have trays containing ballots for each party contesting the election. The ballots are marked with letters assigned to the specific party. Voters are given envelops and they choose the ballot of the party they want to vote for and place them in the envelops and drop them into the ballot box.

Machine Voting; with new technology machine voting has come into the fore. These machines can be either manual which operate through a lever or are electronic. A specific number is allotted to each candidate contesting the election and voters type in the number of the candidate and upon doing so the candidate’s picture gets displayed on the screen and the voter then confirms their vote.

Postal Voting; postal ballot is a process in which the voter exercises. This is mostly applicable for people who live in remote locations, armed forces personnel, government officials, officials on election duties. There is also an option for proxy voting but it is restricted only for armed forces, police and government officials posted outside the country. This person can authorize someone else to vote on his behalf at his own polling booth area. 

Off late there has been lot of debate regarding which is the best method, Paper ballot or Electronic Voting machines? There are mixed reactions. However, when we delve into the pros and cons of both the system it kind of leans more towards the Electronic Voting Machine. 

First of all in one of the largest democracy of the world India, counting of paper ballots take up a lot of time, human resources and the chances of wrong counting due to human error is high. Secondly, the amount of paper ballots that are required also calls for lot of resources in terms of papers, printing as well as storing of the election ballots for records. Whereas, in this time of technology Electronic voting machines are independent machines which run on batteries and can store data for more than ten years. As it runs on electricity it can be successfully used in areas where there are power problems. 

Counting the paper ballots are time consuming while the electronic Voting is used to conduct and the count the votes, giving it numerous advantages like faster results, cost effective, accurate, portable, requires less human resource, saving our natural resources by saving a huge lot of paper etc. 

The main disadvantage seems to be the fact that it is prone to tampering. There have been reports of Electronic Voting machines being tampered by powerful political leaders in their favor but these reports have also been categorically denied by the manufacturer. It also does not ring very logical as Electronic voting machines are not connected to the internet and it is not at all possible to tamper such a huge number of machines. The concept of hacking the Electronic voting machines in such large scale does not seem to be remotely possible, as individual chips in all the machines needs to be changed. Whereas, in paper ballots there are every possibility of wrong counting, missing ballot papers and manually tampering them.

Some argue that paper ballots are the best method as countries like America still use them. However, we need to understand that America follows two party systems unlike our multiparty system. We do not follow their system and as such what we do is the best for our country. 

There are always options to secure the Electronic Voting Machines and make them tamper proof.

By: Madhuchanda Saxena