Image by Felipe Blasco from Pixabay 

Introduction 

In a democratic setup, an election is one of the few important tools in the hands of the people for it is ‘we’ who constitute the nation and it is ‘we’ who breathe life in it. Elections per se in India have attained the role of a periodic festival that lasts for a few days, brings in government holidays, and gives us a sense of importance, for it is the only time when we feel the power where it belongs with us the ‘people’. Time and again the importance of periodic free and fair elections has been discussed at great lengths and how a democratic government is the only way for a civilized society like ours. Since her independence, India has seen plenty of electoral events that have forever changed how we view elections.

DIRECT ELECTIONS 

In direct elections, people directly vote for the candidates and elect their representatives. The following are examples of direct elections in which people over the age of 18 years participate by casting their votes:
  • Lok Sabha elections, in which the Members of Parliament (MP) are elected.
  • Elections to the state Legislative Assembly, in which the Members of Legislative Assemblies(MLAs) are elected.
  • Elections to the local governing bodies, in which members of the local governing bodies like the municipal corporation or the panchayat are elected.

Merits of direct elections in India  

As the voters elect their representatives directly, direct elections are considered to be a more democratic method of election. It educates people regarding government activities and helps in choosing appropriate candidates. Also, it encourages people to play an active role in politics. It empowers people and makes the rulers accountable for their actions.

Demerits of direct elections   

Direct elections are very expensive. It incurs huge expenditure on the public exchequer. For example in the nine-phased 2014 Lok Sabha elections, a whopping 30,000 crore was spent by the government, political parties, and candidates. Out of which, the Election Commission alone spent 3,426 crores.

Illiterate voters sometimes get misguided by false propaganda and sometimes vote to take into caste, religion, and various other sectarian considerations. This may result in the election of undeserving candidates. There are also instances of Cash for vote.

Since conducting direct elections are a massive exercise, ensuring free and fair elections at all the polling booths may not be possible. Some instances of booth capturing, violence, intimidation of election officials, etc. undermine the credentials of the election process.

The role of money power in direct elections cannot be negated. Some political candidates influence the voters through payments in the form of cash, goods, or services. Poor voters expect bribes from political candidates during election time. This in turn leads to wide-scale corruption and malpractices. It is a well-known fact that money power has the potential to swing at least some elections. These practices are a regular feature of elections in South India, especially in the states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Election campaigns sometimes result in violence, tension, and law and order problems and affect the day-to-day life of people.

INDIRECT ELECTIONS

In Indirect elections, voters elect their representatives who in turn elect their representatives to formal offices like the President’s office. Simply put, the public does not cast their votes directly. Instead, they put the responsibility in the hands of their representatives, whom they elected through direct elections. In India, elections to elect members of both the Rajya Sabha and the state legislative councils and the elections for the offices of the President and vice president are held through indirect elections.


Merits of Indirect elections 

Indirect elections are less expensive.
It is more suited to elections in large countries.


Demerits of Indirect elections  

Since the number of voters is very small. There exists the possibility of corruption, bribery, horse trading, etc.
It is less democratic because people do not have a direct opportunity to elect, they instead do it through their representatives. So, this may not reflect the true will of the public.


Scope and Opportunities:

Election Campaigns
What are election campaigns?  

Election campaigns are how candidates and political parties prepare and present their ideas and positions on issues to the voters in the period preceding election day. Contestants use a variety of techniques to reach voters and deliver their messages, including through traditional and new media, public events, written materials, or other means. In some countries, public media and/or space are allocated to contestants for these purposes (considered indirect public campaign financing). The dates of an official election campaign period, usually a month or several months leading up to election day, are often legally defined. In many countries, the legal window for campaigning will end a day or two before election day, providing a so-called “black-out period” immediately before voting begins. Parties and candidates will establish physical premises from which they carry out campaign activities and overall operations.

Why do election campaigns matter? 

Democratic elections require an informed as well as a free vote and a fair chance for contestants to win support and motivate supporters to help them gain office. Election campaigns are vital to achieving those goals. Elections that are genuinely competitive offer equitable opportunities for contestants to convey their positions to citizens and compete for votes. Election campaigns provide candidates and political parties with opportunities to present their message to citizens, helping voters make educated and informed decisions on election day. To help ensure an even playing field and an election that ultimately reflects the will of citizens, any public resources allocated to election contestants must be equitable. Decision-making processes about how those resources are allocated should be transparent, so contestants and the broader public can understand and trust the outcomes. With access to information about election campaigns, including the official campaign window and public resource allocations, parties and candidates can design their campaign activities and understand what they are entitled to from the state if anything. Access to data about election campaigns allows contestants and civil society to explore whether candidates have equitable access to whatever public campaign resources are provided in a given context, if any, including media and space for campaign events like rallies. Where public media is allocated to contestants, then parties, candidates, and citizens can consider whether the allocation process was credible and the resulting allocations, equitable. Even in contexts in which there is no allocation of public resources for campaigns, contestants and civil society can examine whether there was any unfair or biased treatment in how contestants were allowed to conduct their operations. This might include whether party offices were permitted to operate, or whether permits were distributed in an unbiased manner for rallies or other campaign events. Transparency in these areas boosts confidence in the election process on the part of contestants and voters and may serve to shed light on any unfair practices or potential abuses of state power where they exist.

Example election campaign data 

Election campaign data includes information about the timetable for official election campaigns, as well as campaign regulations or restrictions. Information also includes official data on party and candidate operations, such as their ability to rent space. Additional campaign data includes information about how contestants are allocated public resources for campaigning, such as media or the use of public spaces. Data about media allocations includes information relating to the decision-making process (the system used for the allotment, such as a lottery) and outcomes (i.e. who has which slots). Relevant data can also include information about applications for rally permits – including who applied, when, why, whether the application was accepted or denied, and, if denied, why.

Election Security Threats and Analysis

The nature of an election makes it vulnerable to a range of security threats against participants, infrastructure, information, and materials.
Effective election security analysis must draw on information and expertise from multiple arenas. A high level of communication and coordination among the agencies responsible for the administration and security of an election is a significant advantage. Neither can security analysis and planning be effective when it occurs only in a period shortly before the electoral process starts, nor depend solely on reactive strategies. Anticipating and pre-empting security risks, mitigating their impact or probability of occurrence, is a strategic endeavor of both the electoral authorities and their security partners.

An electoral process is constituted from a complex series of interdependent sub-processes, generically including boundary delimitation, civic education, voter education, voter registration, party registration, candidate nomination, the campaign period, polling operations, tallying and counting, dispute resolution, and the official announcement of results. Except for boundary delimitation (which often occurs following a decennial census exercise) these sub-processes occur in some form during each election cycle.
Each of these sub-processes can be characterized by different types of threats, influenced by: the particular approach adopted, cross-influence between sub-processes, and the individual circumstances of the election.

Further, the circumstantial conditions of an election can alter quickly, requiring the rapid reprioritization or invalidation of initial security assumptions. Accordingly, the analysis of threats and risks is a continuous task throughout the electoral process and is not simply event-driven.

The types of security threats likely to arise in a particular election are influenced by both structural and circumstantial aspects of the election process. The structural design of the electoral process such as the choice of the electoral system may foster or deter certain threats. For instance, an electoral system that uses a single national district (the national borders form a single electoral constituency) and allows voters to cast their vote at any polling station, will offer no direct incentive to forcibly move voters within the territory – irrespective of where the vote is cast, it will be counted in the final tally.

On the other hand, this arrangement may promote efforts to forcibly migrate eligible voters across national borders, so they cannot participate. In security terms, this scenario reflects a heightened structural risk for border control operations during the voter registration and polling phases of an election.

Circumstances will dictate in each election, and at each stage of the electoral process, the level and priority of risk posed by different threats. For example, when an election is a presidential run-off (the final two candidates competing), the danger of political assassination represents a significantly higher risk than an election of several hundred parliamentarians to an assembly. Similarly, if an election is being conducted as part of a post-conflict peace agreement, it has a very different risk profile from an election held in a country with an unbroken history of democratic elections.

One methodology to map an election’s risk profile is by the identification of mission-critical assets (people, infrastructure, information, and materials), without which, the election cannot reasonably proceed. In combination, the unique structural and circumstantial aspects of an election will dictate at what phase of the process an asset is critical, and notably, if this may change between sub-processes. Some electoral processes by their nature are better able to adapt to certain types of attack. For instance, the destruction of ballot boxes at a polling station after polling has been completed may or may not cripple the ability of the electoral authorities to produce a result from the election.

The impact of such an attack will vary significantly depending on a range of both structural and circumstantial factors. Separating ‘mission critical’ from ‘recoverable’ threats is a key step in building the election risk profile and determining priorities.

Against the backdrop of these regular security challenges, several new threat trends have emerged in the past few years. These include international terrorism and organized crime:


International terrorism

As a well-recognized ritual of democracy, elections can attract threats from diverse groups, whose motivations may have no connection to the national stakes of an election. As recent events have demonstrated, international terrorists have the capacity and motivation to conduct “spectacular attacks” geared towards fulfilling their propaganda agendas. The intensity of media coverage during an election is a highly visible period, affording an attractive opportunity for such attacks to occur.

Organized Crime  

The political tensions that arise during an election offer organized crime groups an appealing opportunity – at a time when the authorities’ ability to differentiate between politically motivated violence and criminally motivated violence can be extremely difficult. Paradoxically, a group committing politically motivated offenses may try to have their actions interpreted as purely criminal, whereas criminally motivated groups may wish to obscure their actions behind a political façade. Of further concern, these interests have become convergent in some post-conflict settings, where organized criminal groups have been known to kidnap individuals and sell the hostages to political groups for propaganda value.

Any section on electoral threats and analysis must highlight a cautious approach in carrying out this function. As noted in the principles above, non-partisanship and impartiality as well as transparency and accountability are important guides for electoral security.

The choice of methods and subjects of information collection, during an election period, must be sensitive to the possibility of interpretation as a political intent and possible backlash. As such, extra emphasis on procedures that adopt checks and balances, is an important safeguard of the analytical process during elections.

Conclusion 

The Vote Counting process  

Instead of relying on crowd-sourcing or vulnerable technology, our 30-state network of local reporters has first-hand knowledge of their territories and trusted relationships with county clerks and other local officials. These stringers collect votes at a local level. We also gather results from state or county websites and electronic data feeds from states. On election night, race callers in each state are armed with a wealth of additional detailed information from our election research team, including demographics, the number of absentee ballots, and political issues that may affect the outcome of races they must call. Race callers are part of AP's Decision Desk, which declared winners in more than 7,000 races in the 2020 general election.

  • Phone in the results
    Stringer phones in results to a vote entry clerk in one of our Vote Entry Centers.
  • collect the votes 
    Our stringers collect votes at a local level from county clerks throughout the night.
  • Key in the data
    A dedicated vote entry clerk keys in the results.
  • Double check, and check again
    Votes are subject to an intense series of checks and verifications. In 2020, we were 99.9% accurate in calling races, and 100% accurate in calling the presidential and congressional races for each state.
  • Deliver the results – fast
    Results are posted on member websites and used in broadcasts, newspaper stories, etc. Results are updated throughout the evening and the days following Election Day.

What is involved on Election Day? 

From before dawn and continuing until the count is complete, thousands of people work full time on AP’s behalf to report the election. Reporters are out with the candidates and interviewing voters at polling places nationwide. Vote count stringers and vote entry clerks will count the vote, while AP staff in the states call the races — all part of a precisely calibrated plan designed to report election results accurately.

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