Wednesday, October 27, 2004

e-voting in India: simplicity?

It is agonizing to me that even after four years of the Florida fiasco, we are still arguing over how to best count every vote and to count it in a manner that is transparent- only, the argument over the notorious hanging chads seems to have transcended itself into an argument about touch screens and paper trails.

While the world’s most powerful democracy is still remains indecisive about the merits of using electronic voting machines, this summer, India, the world’s largest democracy, took a giant leap forward towards making itself the world’s largest e- democracy. It undertook an unprecedented electronic voting endeavor that enabled 370 million of its citizens (out of 675 million eligible) to vote by electronic voting machines in its federal and state elections.


The Indian Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) is a two-piece unit, designed and developed indigenously by two government owned defense equipment-manufacturing companies. Each machine has a keyboard called the balloting unit, on which voters simply push the button adjacent to the name and symbol of the candidate of their choice and the votes are recorded on a chip in the control unit operated by the Electoral Officer. A five-meter cable connects both units. This machine is no more than a modified adding machine, with a microprocessor chip.

It has a simple circuit and a few lines of assembly code. It is far less complicated than the electronic voting machines used here in the US, which resemble an ATM, running on Microsoft software, having thousands of lines of code, encryptions, voice-guidance system etc. In testimony before the U.S. Election Assistance Commission on May 6 2004, Avi Rubin, a professor at the Johns Hopkins University Information Security Institute said, “The trusted computing base is approximately 50,000 lines of computer code sitting on top of tens of millions of lines of [operating system] code. It is impossible to secure such a large trusted computing base," However, the issue of paramount importance to experts here in the U.S, is the issue of network security.

Simple is good. Paper is the simplest solution.
I don't know enough about the EVM to make any further comment.

Seattle Times - October 26, 2004
E-Voting: Lessons To Be Learned
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