A small portion of the world’s largest democracy is about to put to the test a completely new way of exercising its electoral franchise: via a smartphone app.
The Telangana State Election Commission will hold a dry run for the country’s first smartphone-based e-voting exercise on October 20 in Khammam, a district in India’s newest state (TSEC). For its experiment, the polling organization is utilizing artificial intelligence and blockchain ledger technology.
The registration period for voting in the dry run will be extended from Oct. 8 to Oct. 18, according to a press release issued on Wednesday, Oct. 6 (TSEC).
Telangana piloted the use of facial recognition software in municipal elections last year to avoid impersonation by fake voters.
In a completely different project, the Indian Election Commission collaborated with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras and the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing in April to create a secure e-voting system.
A few other Indian states have also expressed interest in using blockchain technology in other areas of governance. For example, Tamil Nadu proposed a state-wide blockchain backbone in 2019 for use by various government departments and public-sector enterprises.
While such initiatives are frequently met with criticism in India, experts believe Telangana’s eVote app will make voting more fair and transparent.
Closing electoral loopholes
The Indian voting system has frequently come under fire, whether for illegitimate voting or tampering with voting machines.
Here, voting is done with simple, low-cost machines that register votes. However, some believe they can be hacked and manipulated. In 2019, for example, several videos emerged showing electronic voting machines (EVMs) being transported without adequate security.
In contrast, a blockchain network is constantly reviewed by a network of users, making it difficult to hack.
“No one can challenge the authenticity or tamper-proof nature of blockchains,” said Sharat Chandra, a blockchain and emerging tech evangelist based in Bengaluru.
Individuals can register on the blockchain network and vote using their blockchain identity number. According to Kamlesh Nagware, chief technology officer of Snapper Future Technologies, a Pune-based blockchain development company, the technology’s zero-knowledge proof encryption scheme prevents duplicate votes and also ensures secrecy over who one has voted for.
Zero-knowledge proof ensures that one party can prove to another party the authenticity of a specific piece of information without revealing anything else.
“There are three components: identity, anonymity, and trust that an eligible voter voted,” Nagware explained. “If something is recorded on the election commission’s blockchain node, they can see it in real time.” At the moment, we can only count the number of votes… Because all voters are pre-registered on the system, no ineligible voters can enter.”
According to Chandra, deploying the technology at scale, such as in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, may result in numerous glitches. However, he stated that it will be dependent on the type of protocol used.
“In my opinion, they may be developing their own proprietary blockchain protocol… Scalability will not be a problem from a technical standpoint. “There are Hedera Hashgraph and Algorand, which can handle thousands of transactions per second,” Chandra explained.