July 21, 2018
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American election issues foreseen en masse in India

By Pat LaMarche

How much do you know about the Republic of India? With nearly 1.2 billion inhabitants it’s the world’s largest democracy. It has four times as many people and about one-third the land mass as the United States, which makes it a tidge crowded. India’s birth rate right now is such that every two people alive today in India will leave three people in their place.

India is famous for many things. Most prominently, India supplied our world with two premier people of peace — Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Theresa.

India embraces nearly every new scientific innovation in the workplace. We associate India with capitalism and fierce competitiveness. Because they, like us, are a republic built on democratic principles, it’s a little easier to be jealous of their dedication to education and their winning away of U.S. jobs — from call centers to scientific facilities — as our own folks lose jobs all across the nation.

Let’s face it, we’re just not as jealous of the jobs going to China because in our minds those are “just” manufacturing jobs and don’t remind us on a daily basis that we’re losing the battle to keep high-tech, wll-paying jobs here at home.

In addition to its legacy of do-gooders, capitalists and our outsourced jobs, India is known for being wedged neatly between the past and the present. They have the Taj Mahal and the nuclear bomb. They have a diverse multiethnic population but sometimes don’t have a very high opinion of their neighbors. In fact they’ve tried, unsuccessfully for the most part, to seal their border with Pakistan. Really, this nation that was also a British colony, sounds as American as we do.

Still with all our similarities, we characteristically make a bit of fun of Indians who make it to our shore. We stereotype Indian immigrants as a population of gas station attendants. So perhaps we harbor disrespect for this East Asian nation as well.

This could explain why the recent news that India’s elections over the past 20 years may have been rigged got so little play in the American press. Turns out, research scientists in India and the U.S. got their hands on one of the 1.4 million electronic voting machines — EVMs — and discovered that the elections could easily be rigged. According to NPR, in one of a handful of national stories covering the recent arrest of the Indian researcher Hari Prasad, the team showed that the machines could be programmed to produce a certain outcome, and that they could be tampered with weeks in advance so that no one would suspect on Election Day that anyone had been corrupting the outcome.

Certainly in a country with 800 million eligible voters, counting those votes is challenging. But we’re not talking about the machines being inaccurate, we’re talking about them being used purposefully to change the election results in the world’s largest democracy.

Hari Prasad was released on bail this week and intends to keep his promise to present his findings titled “Security Analysis of India’s Electronic Voting Machine” at a conference in Chicago on Oct. 5. Conditions of his bail do not preclude his leaving the country, and maybe the authorities in India would be just as happy to see him go. Lord knows we need scientists who understand EVMs here in the U.S. as badly as they need them in India.

Perhaps you’ve noticed the recent discrepancies from primary elections held across the U.S. this month. Most notably the inefficiency, if not corruptibility, of EVMs has been brought to light in Tennessee.

According to an Aug. 25 press release issued by 10 local candidates filing suit against the Shelby County Election Commission, the Aug. 5 election results showed that even though only 176,119 were eligible to vote, 182,921 votes were cast. Wow, that’s a 104 percent voter turnout!

The lawsuit also contends that of the sequentially numbered voter batches submitted for inspection, two such batches are missing. It appears that 6,000 to 18,000 of those votes — while still counted in the outcome — have vanished.

Maybe as a country we don’t care if India’s elections are rigged. But considering we’re using the same technology, could our two similar countries be all that different when it comes to this?

Pat LaMarche of Yarmouth is the author of “Left Out In America: The State of Homelessness in the United States.” She may be reached at PatLaMarche@hotmail.com.

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