From the Viewsroom


J Srinivasan | Updated on November 05, 2020

The US has much to learn about the conduct of elections from India

The world’s ‘oldest democracy’ has voted and whoever comes to power, and before tinkering with the visa processes, must certainly offer some H-1B visas to India’s Election Commission officials to learn about the conduct of polls. The inefficient and antediluvian process the US has hardly befits the richest nation. Before, during and after the polling, voters faced a variety of doubts — will the ballot register; will the postal service pick up all the votes, that is, if you managed to find the dropbox; will your vote be counted at all; or will the courts get into the act.

The key reason for all the confusion appears to be the absence of an independent agency to conduct elections, like our own Election Commission. There are no uniform set of rules for the entire country, with each state having different rules even for who shall vote. Elections are conducted not by a dedicated set of officials but by whoever is nominated to do the job — usually the secretary of state.

As a New York Times report says, neither the federal government nor the states adequately fund the elections and hence the process is “often unable to meet anything more than ordinary demand”. This year the demands were hardly ordinary, with a raging pandemic as the backdrop and a record 67 per cent turnout. Mail-in votes were huge as were devices like drive-through voting. But, then, all these votes needed to be tabulated and counted in good time. The system seemed unequal to the task even without the incumbent President moving courts to stop the counting process itself.

Actively limiting those who can vote, intimidation/suppression and the plain inequality — more whites than people of colour vote — hardly seem the hallmarks of the much-touted American democracy. Certainly, the US has much to learn about the conduct of elections from India, with the sheer size of its electorate, the myriad parties, the vastly varying terrain, the diversity of languages, and so on. Warts and all, we do seem to be doing a pretty good job. Perhaps, the poll panel should offer ‘Election-as-a-Service’, a la SaaS.

Published on November 05, 2020

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