Most voting practices across the world do not issue any receipts. The voter has no way to know if the vote cast was counted for the chosen candidate. There have been many arguments in favor of as well as against the issue of receipts.
A receipt is a confirmation, a proof of counting. It reinforces the value of the vote. It gives every voter the feeling of mattering.
The opponents of receipts have argued that they open up vote commerce: exchange of money for votes. Others have argued that voting process without receipts is also open to proxy by commerce.
In the world of business proxy voting is both common and legitimate as is the use of this system by lobbyists and interest groups to take over companies or change their directions. The compulsions of the voter or the proxy holder may be diverse, but the common equation is the value of the vote. A proxy holder looks for controlling return on investment- the voter for an advanced dividend for giving up the right to choosing the management. Proxy is sustained as long at it results in the company can continue to grow and yield return-on-investment to the proxy owner as well as serve a better dividend today than the dividend from the better governance as a result of a different choice. As far as the latter is concerned, it is self-fulfilling to prefer proxy. Dividend payments upfront result in the exclusion of future dividends for the voter group that has given up its right to a future dividend. Therefore the choice of upfront dividends seems always better than otherwise.
A nation elects its government for the dividends its citizens may receive from the management by the new "board". If the use of proxy serves to be more beneficial to the voters than the management by a government, it may well be the lesser evil to voting without receipts.
In a voting process a transaction trail would require each vote be identified with the voter, location and time. This trail would ensure that every vote can be tracked to the source. If there is a transaction trail, it becomes impossible to add or remove votes that do not come from a voter, a location and during a legitimate period.
Those against a transaction trail argue of its making the ballot free of secrecy. Those for the trail argue about the inability to ensure legitimate votes from illegitimate ones as those may be cast by any compromise of the polling process.
Whatever the merits of secrecy, it certainly fails to enthuse confidence about the voting process and in voter based democracy. What is the difference between the acts of a dictator and a secretly elected ruler? Whatever but a leap of faith can stand witness to the democratic election of the ruler?
Rabindranath Tagore dreamt of a land where the mind is without fear and the head held high- will a secret democracy ever lead us into this world where everyone can walk fearlessly and honorably with the choices they make about the way they may be ruled?
It is interesting that a secret sunday confession does not rid the world of sinners. Would a sunday of public celebration of virtues make the world a better place?
Although voting is a blank cheque to trillions of rupees of spending, a license to control the civil liberty in a country, a framework that pushes thousands of decisions to every citizen it is the most un-audit-able process in a country. There is no way anyone can verify the claims of those in control of the voting process and certify them to be true and correct. There is no way that anyone can follow the transactions of voting and certify that a candidate did indeed get as many votes as counted from legitimate sources. There is no way anyone can certify that the vote cast by anyone actually ended up for the candidate for whom it was destined. There is no way anyone can certify that every voter counted at the polling booth was actually the one who was entitled to vote.
Arguably the process of audit requires a transaction trail. A publicly audit-able process would require a public access to the trail. In an age of open-source it is surprising that we opt for closed-audit systems in the name of secrecy.
Ease of VotingEdit
The most that has happened to ease elections is an Electronic Voting Machine. There is little simplification, transparency and security that is built into the system.
Why cannot elections happen at ATM's in banks across the country over a specified week in the year? Why can voters not visit the ATM to change their vote- or at least view it as many times as they like over the period of the election? Imagine the value of exchanging the receipt for money if that were possible!
Or imagine the mobile being the sign-in with a pin to vote over an election week, as many times as you wish? What an idea sirji? Why not vote not just for the representative but also for key bills brought before the legislative and parliamentary bodies? What use is technology if it cannot widen the base of voting?
They say secrecy is the difference between a marriage and an affair. Hold anything secret and even a RTI may not be able to get you justice. The hallmark of civilization is when dissenters can walk fearlessly in a world of pluralism. Are we that far away from a civilized society?
The men of character in every civilization rarely hid their true opinions behind secret ballot or diplomatic guile. No land of secret decisions ever yielded a world without fear. Certainly not one where you may hold your head high. Such a land cannot have free knowledge, there would be a price for every information.
To create a honest and trusting society we must cast secrecy of voting to history, teach everyone to be proud to stand to their choice and even welcome dissent.
Election reform can yield us the world Tagore dreamt about- it can leapfrog the worlds biggest democracy to being the worlds greatest nation. Let us embark on a journey to build our nation together. Let us celebrate the diversity of our votes!
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