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India to get paper trail

Looks like our research may have killed black-box voting for a billion people… Yay!

For months and months, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has held their black-box voting machines (called EVMs in India) to be untamperable. When that really didn’t work anymore (and they tried long after everyone could see they were lying), they did the same thing authorities did in the Netherlands and Germany: they claimed they were unhackable because they were stored very securely and certainly no insider would ever dream of comitting fraud. It appears that this second line of defense has now also fallen.

Yesterday there was a meeting of all the national political parties in India, and it appears the ECI has finally given in: they are now looking at alternatives where the voter sees his/her vote on a piece of paper which can be counted by hand. Here, they also did that, which was just a first step to having the machines scrapped. It’s going to be interesting to see whether the Indian government thinks they can drag on the existing solution until something new is ready. (They tried that here, didn’t work.)

Too early to cry victory, but certainly another big step forward. Now the charges against Hari Prasad, the man who spent time in jail for daring to notice that the emperor had no clothes on, need to be dropped (TODAY GENTLEMEN!) and Hari needs to be fully rehabilitated. Then a strict deadline for scrapping black-box voting needs to be imposed. Then the details of any new voting system need to be worked out. There is already talk of allowing a hand-count only if a judge permits it, which is of course far too restrictive.

For further details alsocheck out Narasimha Rao’s blog at

5 comments to India to get paper trail

  • I’m amazed that the shift in India has taken only months, whereas, here in the US micro shifts have taken YEARS. Now, thanks to the “incrementalist” activists here, we didn’t move from the DREs to hand counts, but instead shifted to scanners. So, now we “get” to start all over again and now tell the public that the scanners really aren’t okay either before we FINALLY get to hand counts. It makes me truly wonder why the huge difference in the responses (U.S. vs India, Netherlands, Germany, Ireland, etc.) to the same revelations. Laziness? Naivete? Denial? Stupidity?

  • rop

    The shift in India is only begnning to happen. Formally, they are only at the point of being willing to study a paper trail. (Which is where the downfall of e-Voting started in this country).

    I had this same discussion with Kathleen Wynne of I don’t think it’s the “incrementalist activists” (as you say) or “computer scientists that are part of the problem” (as she said) as much as the way elections are done and perceived in the US. The ambitions of the elections (lots of races, lots of initiatives on the ballot, lots of different ways to vote) and the way they are decentralized per county that make any meaningful reform really hard. In my view, you simply cannot have transparency at such a bizarre level of complexity, whether on paper ballots or on OpScans.

    In many countries the elections are just way simpler and much more centralized. One or two races per election, one way to vote and one ministry or one electoral council sets the rules and that’s it.

  • hi there, I am doing a radio show around Indian voting machines and releated topics, maybe the editor of this blog or someone else could give me an interview contact in India for my show.

    contact me under thomas (at) talkinganthropology (dot) com
    thank you!

  • […] e-Voting dealt double blow Flawed electronic voting technologies were dealt a double blow this week, with hacker infiltration ending an online voting trial in Washington DC, and the Indian Electoral Commission bowing to mounting pressure to provide a paper trail alongside their electronic systems. e-Voting campaigners are now calling for all charges against Indian security researcher Hari Prasad – who was arrested in August after he revealed flaws in e-voting machines – to be dropped. US | India […]