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06 Feb 2020
Political systems
Suggestion View - 289
How to handle an election fairly and efficiently

Many countries mess up their election process. Even the states in America have problems in carrying it out in an fair and efficient manner. There were disputes about election results that had to go to court.

Sometimes, I wonder if the mess was created deliberately to favor certain parties in power. Or they were due to plain inefficiency and stupidity. 

The same kind of problems occur in many other countries using the democratic process. There were often allegations of vote rigging or outright dishonesty.

Let me suggest how the election can be carried out fairly and efficiently.

The first question to be addressed is - should the voting be done electronically. My answer is - no. It is better to use the pen and paper method. This is easy for the voters, and also avoid the risk of the election computers being hacked and compromised. 

To simplify the process of counting, a separate voting slip should be used for each office being elected. if the voter has to vote for the president, senator and representative, three separate voting slips have to be used. If they have to vote for the state governor and the state legislature, each office will have a separate voting slip.

The counting should be done at the voting location at the close of the polls. They should be supervised by the independent election officers and witnessed by representatives of the agents. Mechanical counting machines can be used to speed up the counting process. It should be done in full view of the authorized parties.

All the relevant parties must sign on the voting result certificates. 

This approach of counting the votes at the voting location removes the need to transport the voting slips to a counting center which can result in the voting boxes being switched on route, or suspicion that it might have occurred.

The voting results should be updated the database online by the election officials. It is a simple matter of entering the total votes received by each candidate at the voting location. The entered results should be sent back by SMS to the respective signatories. This will ensure that the results that are entered into the database are correct and not altered.

Any of the relevant parties can view the results stored in the database at any time, to be assured that the figures as entered are not altered.

As the data that are entered into the database are summary results at the voting locations, the volume of data is manageable. There is no risk that the database will be overloaded.

For example, if there were 2000 offices (or positions) being contested in a big general election, and on average, there are 50 voting locations for each office, the total number of records to be entered is 100,000. This is a manageable number. 

The voting for a local representative can be carried out in a smaller number (say 30) voting locations. At the highest level, e.g. voting for a president, the voting may have to be carried out in 1,000 locations.

The summary of the votes at the locations can be carried out by several sets of programs under the separate control of the election officers, auditors and the political parties. All of these counting summaries should produce the same results. 

The process that I have described will ensure that the results are fair and can be computed quite quickly, after the close of the voting. The risk of fraud and manipulation is totally eliminated. 

My approach does not require a high level of sophistication in the computer systems. Indeed, it provides a transparent process and allows the involvement of people at many levels. It is a simple system and is easy to understand.

Tan Kin Lian

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