India, world's largest democracy, just recently successfully completed the general election for its parliament. For the first time in its history, India has successfully used EVM (Electronic Voting Machines) for the polls in all the constituencies.

 

Obviously, usage of EVMs have been the highlight of the election. Obviously, it didn't get the attention it deserves, because media doesn't care about things that work. Here are some of the requirements for EVM system.

 

  1. 600 Million possible voters (380 million actually voted in this election)
  2. Million election booths.
  3. Each constituency will have different set of candidates. Some constituency may have up to 100s of candidates standing in the election - which is an unlikely thing in west (of course, California is the exception.)
  4. EVM should support 18 different official languages. For example, I hail from a state called Tamil Nadu and voters belonging to this state understand only Tamil.
  5. ~15-20% of the voters are illiterate - can't read and write. It adds an interesting perspective to the usability aspect of EVM.

 

 

Here are few facts.

 

  1. One million EVMs have been manufactured for this election.
  2. There was virtually no complaint about usability of EVMs. In my opinion, this is the greatest achievement. If you ask why, just think about all the hoopla around Florida episode during last USA presidential election.
  3. Each EVM is shipped to the local booth via appropriate transport mechanisms. I am sure you have seen photos of elephants carrying EVMs to the remotest corners of India. This is a logistical nightmare at the best of times. This is one of the reasons (apart from security) as to why the election was conducted over a period of three weeks.
  4. All votes were counted. (sorry mate, couldn't avoid taking a pot shot :) Honestly though, I have a huge respect for US electoral process. IMO, contrary to popular opinion, it is really efficient. It could be made better, by buying EVMs from India. :))
  5. Here is the counting process: All the EVMs are brought to a centralized place and they were connected to the network. Counting is a matter of just summing up the votes for individual candidates from different EVMs. All said and done, the whole process takes up to 2 hours. Before the usage of EVMs, the whole process takes up to 2 days and is error prone as the votes were counted manually.
  6. Millions of trees were sparred from extermination.

 

The cool thing about this election is this: If EVMs work for India, it should work for every democratic country for conducting polls (and it will work for china too, if and when china becomes democratic.) When it comes to polls, India should be the benchmark, just by its sheer size and the population. Folks who designed this system should be really proud about what they have achieved.

 

So, next time when you think of India, please think about the EVMs and not call centers and snake charmers. :)