India: Protest to Election Commission over electronic voting machines | The Indian Express

A routine administrative move by the Election Commission of India, to shift electronic voting machines (EVMs) from Gujarat to Jammu and Kashmir for the Assembly polls there, has taken a surprise political turn. The controversy started with rumours that the EVMs had been “manufactured” in Gujarat and were programmed to ensure the BJP’s victory in the polls. Despite the EC clarifying that this was not true, and that the machines were only being moved for operational reasons, many in the Valley remain unconvinced. “We have to be doubly sure. The people of J&K are already asking why EVMs are being brought from Gujarat. An NGO created quite a stir by claiming that these machines could be tampered with,” J&K Congress president Saifuddin Soz told The Indian Express.

India: Election Commission may opt for Gujarat online model for NRI voting | The Economic Times

Non-resident Indians (NRIs) keen on voting in this year’s general election could only do so if they had registered back home and were present in the constituency on the day of balloting. This meant that few could be part of the exercise. The Election Commission of India is now examining the Gujarat model of local body elections as it looks for options to enable NRIs to cast their vote from overseas. Gujarat implemented the country’s first internet voting initiative during the Gandhinagar municipal corporation elections in April 2011. A committee constituted by the poll panel to explore how best NRIs can participate in elections is studying the model.

India: A Preview of India’s 2014 Election: How Will 800 Million People Choose Their Next Leader? | International Business Times

India will embark Monday on the biggest democratic election in global history with some 815 million eligible voters, more than all the people in the U.S., Russia, Japan and Nigeria combined, casting ballots in a six-week process to elect a prime minister. It’s a logistics tour de force: Voting will occur at 930,000 polling stations across India from April 7 to May 12. It’s also more complex than an election in a direct democracy. Rather, based on the British parliamentary system, Indians vote for 543 legislators who then appoint a prime minister from the party that amasses a majority of seats in the lower house of parliament, where each state in India has proportional representation, as in the U.S. House of Representatives. The independent Election Commission of India will count votes and announce results on May 16. If no one party has amassed a simple majority in parliament on that date, parties will have only a few weeks of frantic negotiations in which to form alliances and name a new prime minister.

India: Election Commission drops plan to partner Google after spying fears | Reuters

The Election Commission dropped plans on Thursday to partner Google Inc on a project to ease voter access to information, after a backlash against the move from campaigners who fear Google and the U.S. government could use it for spying. India, the world’s largest democracy, will go to the polls in a general election due by May. Google (GOOG.O), the world’s No.1 search engine, had pitched a project to the Election Commission to create a simpler and faster search tool for voters to check whether they were registered correctly or not. But the plan was opposed by the Indian Infosec Consortium, a government and private sector-backed alliance of cyber security experts, who feared Google would collaborate with “American agencies” for espionage purposes. The Election Commission did not officially give a reason for dropping the plan. But an official, who did not want to be named, told Reuters that Google’s proposal was not a major improvement on its existing website, and that Google’s involvement had drawn criticism in India.

India: Tie-up of Election Commission and Google sparks security fears | Hindustan Times

Indian software professionals have expressed their worry at the Election Commission of India’s (ECI) project to register fresh voters by using the services of software behemoth Google. Warning that data collected by Google has been frequently used by American spy agency, the NSA, this consortium of professionals has sent a letter to the chief election commissioner pointing out this “security breach. At a time when the world is concerned about the security of sensitive data, a Constitutional authority like the ECI is making it readily available to a foreign company,” Jiten Jain from the consortium. “The government has said that no sensitive data of Indians will ever be shared with foreign servers. But the ECI will hand over names, IP addresses, cell phone numbers, residential addresses and all other kinds of sensitive data to Google for this project. This should have been cleared by Indian security agencies first.”

Maldives: After ‘coup’ violence, Maldives faces democracy test on Saturday | Hindustan Times

The Indian Ocean archipelago of the Maldives goes to the polls on Saturday for a presidential election that will test its young democracy 18 months after a violent change in leadership. The outcome and conduct of the election also has regional repercussions, with the sea-faring nation becoming a new area of competition between India and China. Recently, a high-level team of Indian observers left for Maldives to monitor the poll process and meet representatives of political parties. The team, which includes former chief election commissioners JM Lyngdoh, BB Tandon and N Gopalaswami and former Indian High Commissioner to Maldives SM Gavai, will visit polling stations spread across different islands. “India is committed to strengthening the institutions of democracy in the Maldives. In this context, the Election Commission of India is working closely with the Elections Commission of Maldives to further strengthen its capacity,” said a statement from the Indian High Commission here. “India is also arranging for the training of Maldivian Judges in India and working closely with the Majlis (parliament),” it said.

India: Election Commission restrains political parties from using animals in election campaigns | The Times of India

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has issued orders restraining use of animals by political parties in election campaigns. The directions follow complaints from individuals and voluntary organizations alleging cruelty towards animals during election campaigns. In the complaints made to ECI it has been alleged that animals like horses, ponies, donkeys, elephants, camels, bulls etc are subjected to cruelty in different ways in election campaigns. It is further alleged that the animals are often made to carry loads beyond permissible limits, made to work for long hours, and some candidates even paint slogans and election symbols on the bodies of animals using harmful chemicals.

India: No No-Vote option on electronic voting machine not this time, says poll panel | DNA

The ‘No-Vote’ option would not be available in the Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) for the civic polls, the Central Election Commission (CEC) and State Election Commission (SEC) informed the Bombay high court on Monday. A division bench of justice DD Sinha and justice VK Tahilramani was hearing a PIL filed by Thane doctor Mahesh Bedekar, seeking to maintain the privacy of people choosing not to vote for any candidate. An affidavit filed by chief electoral officer Debasish Chakrabarty before the high court stating that the Election Commission of India had considered the issue of providing a separate ‘None of the above’ panel in the EVMs.

India: Election commission issued detailed guidelines for proxy voting | Punjab Newsline

The Election Commission of India Monday issued detailed guidelines for proxy voting by armed forces personnel in the elections. According to  Kusumjit Singh Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Punjab said that special provisions have been made in the law for facilitating registration of armed forces personnel and casting of votes by them.

By virtue of provisions under R P Act, 1950 a member of the Armed forces and his wife, if residing with him, can be registered as service voters in the last part of the electoral of the constituency in which his native place is located.

India: EC warns Punjab officials against repeat of SGPC polls omissions | Times Of India

They may have had no powers to take note of and stop the alleged irregularities and partisan activities committed during the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) elections, but the Election Commission of India has definitely been alarmed by what happened during the gurdwara polls recently.

That’s why, in a major snub to the state government, chief election commissioner S Y Quraishi told the administrative heads – the deputy commissioners and the divisional commissioner – on Saturday at Ludhiana that they knew “what exactly happened in Punjab during the SGPC elections and you dare not repeat this again.”

India: Online voting not feasible: Chief Election Commissioner | Times of India

Making voting hi-tech will make the entire democratic process of voting an unsafe venture, feels S Y Quraishi, Chief Election Commissioner of India. He said on Tuesday that India was not yet ready for bringing in technology into the voting system. The CEC spoke to TOI on the utility of the voter ID cards and put the onus on the citizen to step out and vote. Excerpts:

Is e-voting feasible for India? Technology is not an issue for implementing e-voting. But it is not feasible in India at this point of time. How do we know who is voting on whose behalf? It is not possible to provide security for every voter with a gunman behind him/her. Online voting is not good, though it looks simpler.