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Why the Aadhaar-voter ID link must be stopped

Using Aadhaar to build electoral databases resulted in exclusion and will help profiling the voter

The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill of 2021, which was hastily passed during the winter session of the Lok Sabha, and which facilitates the amendment of the Representation of the People Act, is a step towards the implementation of electronic remote online voting for which the use of Aadhaar will be the main identity. The main purpose of associating Aadhaar with his voter ID was to create a biometric dependent voting system from the start. The big demand made to support this change was to fight against “fraud and duplication” in the electoral rolls. At the same time, in practice, in places where it has been used – thanks to the intermixing of Voter Photo Identity Card (EPIC) data with surveillance databases – it has facilitated selective deletion. voters from the lists. In the 2018 Telangana Assembly elections, for example, the consequence of such a measure led to the removal of around two million voters.

The case of two states

In 2014, the Election Commission of India (ECI) conducted two pilot programs to link voter identification to Aadhaar in the districts of Nizamabad and Hyderabad. Using the claim of efficiency in suppressing duplicate voters, the ECI called for a national consultation on Aadhaar and voter identification, held in Hyderabad in February 2015. The ECI launched the National Purification Program and Authentication of Electoral Lists (NERPAP) on April 1, 2015., which was due to be completed by August 31, 2015. After an order from the Supreme Court of India on August 11, 2015, it was announced that this NERPAP would be closed . But as Telangana and Andhra Pradesh were the first to adopt this program since 2014, the two states are almost done linking Aadhaar and voter identification for all residents. Although the composite state of Andhra Pradesh was split in 2014, there was only one office of the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Telangana and Andhra Pradesh as the bifurcation process was not yet completed in 2015.

Database integration

The methodology followed by the ECI to find duplicate voters using Aadhaar is unknown to the general public. The information is also not available in the public domain. Several requests under the Right to Information Act to the Chief Electoral Officer, Telangana, requesting this information were unsuccessful. In 2018, the ECI responded to CEOs to ask them about the methodology used in the NERPAP for collecting Aadhaar data after questions were asked about the ECI collecting Aadhaar data without the consent of voters. In a letter (n ° 1471 / Elecs.B / A1 / 2018-3, April 25, 2018), from CEO Andhra Pradesh (then for Telangana and Andhra Pradesh) to ECI, it is clear that the State Resident Data Hub ( SRDH) the Telangana and Andhra Pradesh government application was used to organize the electoral rolls.

The SRDH has data on state residents which is provided by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) or collected by state governments. The UIDAI initially created the SRDH to give states information on residents – similar to the Aadhaar database without biometrics. Individuals now maintain the SRDH. While the UIDAI was forced not to collect data on caste, religion and other sensitive data for Aadhaar, it recommended that states collect this information, if necessary, as part of the Aadhaar data collection. ; it called the Know Your Resident (KYR) and Know Your Resident Plus (KYR +) process.

In Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, state governments also conducted a state census where voter data, Aadhaar data, 360 degree profiling with details such as caste, religion, counts banking and other sensitive personal information was also collected. These state census surveys were called Samagra Kutumba Survey 2014 and Smart Pulse Survey 2016.

SRDHs are now part of the state’s surveillance architecture targeting the civilian population. It was these SRDH applications that the ECI used to organize the electoral rolls that led to the removal of a significant number of voters from the list in Telangana in 2018. It is not only Telangana but all over India. ; the ECI has already linked Aadhaar and voter IDs of nearly 30 crore people, resulting in the removal of voters (unstarred question 2673, Rajya Sabha from January 2019).

Deprivation of the right to vote

The role of the ECI in verifying voters using door-to-door verification (in 2015) was embraced (based on RTI responses from the ECI, and widely reported in 2018, after the elections at the Telangana Assembly in December); a government-commissioned software algorithm for purposes unknown to the public and maintained by a private IT company is now under control. While the role and autonomy of the ICE itself is speculative, subjecting key voters lists to surveillance software damages the concept of universal adult suffrage. What the Telangana and Andhra Pradesh experience highlights is the suppression and deprivation of voters.

A mock election (in October 2021) was conducted in Telangana by the State Election Commission with smartphones using facial recognition, voter ID, Aadhaar number and phone number for the authentication during voting (this was tweeted by the collector, Khammam). This method kills the “secret ballot”. In a situation where the role of money mocks the democratic process, binding Aadhaar will be futile. Electronic voting machines (EVMs), if infallible, put an end to the days of capture of voting booths that prevailed in the days of paper ballots. But these protests are about to bring the age back. Electronic voting can also be played using malware to alter the outcome of an election. Although the bill does not address large-scale electronic voting, there is a problem with ensuring electoral integrity.

An Aadhaar-Voter ID link will also help political parties create voter profiles and influence the voting process. Online trends on voting day and the micro-targeting of voters using their data will make it easier for ruling political parties to use the data for elections. A ruling coalition will always have an advantage with the data it has. This is the case, for example, of the chief ministers of certain states who are asked to obtain data from beneficiaries of social assistance schemes. How this data was used in the 2019 election is one indicator. The way Aadhaar was pushed across the country has been undemocratic and unconstitutional since its inception. Aadhaar himself has several false and duplicate names, which have been widely documented. Linking Aadhaar with voter identification will create complexities in the voter databases that will be difficult to resolve. This process will introduce errors into the electoral rolls and have a huge impact on Indian electoral democracy.

Kiran Chandra Yarlagadda is Secretary General of the Free Software Movement of India (FSMI). Srinivas Kodali is a researcher, FSMI