Over 500 prominent people, including former civil servants, journalists, social activists, researchers and students, have issued a statement against the proposal by the Electoral Commission of India (ECI) to link voter IDs and the EPIC database to Aadhaar, one called it “dangerous idea that can fundamentally change the structure of our democracy”.
Other signatories include Electoral Reform Group, Association for Democratic Reforms, civil rights groups from across the country such as the Peoples’ Union of Civil Liberties, MKSS, Adivasi Women’s Network, Chetna Andolan, and NAPM Jharkhand; and digital rights groups like Rethink Aadhaar, Article 21 Trust, the Internet Freedom Foundation, the Bachao Project and the Free Software Movement of India. ”
As per Reports, the government is introducing some important voting reforms based on EC recommendations. According to the EC, the proposal to link aadhaar to voter IDs is to weed out Reproductions. The electoral laws (Amendment Bill, 2021, which would link electoral rolls to Aadhaar numbers, would establish the applicant’s identity on Monday, December 20, in the Lok Sabha). ”
The statement is as follows:
Linking Voter ID and Aadhaar is a rash, illogical and unnecessary step that could undermine our electoral democracy and undermine voter confidence in the electoral system. Indians’ right to vote cannot be jeopardized by irresponsible linking of databases and the use of an opaque algorithm to “verify” identities. Technological solutions cannot replace responsible administration. Timely door-to-door voter screening remains the most effective way to keep electoral rolls up to date and ensure voter records are accurate.
The Electoral Commission has claimed that this will help clean up the electoral roll and that any linkage will be “voluntary”. As we noted in our previous mission, and as the Constitutional Conduct Group noted recently, we are deeply concerned that this will almost certainly lead to mass disenfranchisement, aggravate electoral fraud given the mass mismatches in the Aadhaar database, and violate the rights to Privacy by enabling voter profiles by linking records. This proposal would go against the judgment of the Supreme Court of India in Judges KS Puttaswamy ret. & Anr. v. Union Of India (Aadhaar judgment), which limited the use of Aadhaar authentication to welfare programs and linking to PAN numbers for income tax purposes only. Any proposal to link the UID to the voter IDs must be rejected.
We are concerned about the following drawbacks to such a proposal:
First‘Aadhaar is not proof of the right to vote. Aadhaar is not and should never serve as proof of citizenship, which is why Aadhaar numbers were issued to all residents and not to citizens. Under the Representation of Peoples’ Act, only residents of India have the right to vote. Linking the two is pointless and unnecessary – it would also be a colossal waste of public funds. There is no legal basis for deleting voters based on whether their records in the EPIC database match Aadhaar records.
Second, such a proposal will almost certainly lead to massive disenfranchisement. This is not the first time the government has attempted to link Voter ID and Aadhaar to “clean” the electoral rolls. In 2015, the central government introduced the National Election Roll Purification and Authentication Program (NERPAP), and during the Aadhaar challenge, the Supreme Court enacted on the 11th. Since this was never allowed by the Supreme Court in its final judgment and order, this would be one Constitute a violation of the Supreme Court ruling. Nevertheless, there was rampant abuse of Aadhaar data. In 2018, the Telangana and Andhra Pradesh election officer linked Aadhaar data to voter ID cards. In 2018, during the assembly elections in Telangana, people found that at least 55 lakh voters had been arbitrarily disenfranchised. Only after public outrage over these arbitrary deletions did the government reverse it.
Previous attempts to use Aadhaar to “clean up” the databases of other government registries such as MGNREGA and PDS have resulted in a mass forfeiture, and thousands of citizens have been arbitrarily deleted from the systems without notice. For example, a study by Jharkhand found that 90% of the grocery cards that were canceled as “false” during the aadhaar link were real. In 2018, even the CEO of UIDAI admitted that authentication errors for government services were up to 12% – this means millions of the data subjects. A recent J-PAL study in Jharkhand also found that Aadhaar-based verification “either did not reduce inclusion or leakage errors, or at the expense of increased exclusion error” with a high error rate of between 22% and 34% of reduced payouts. Once lost, it turns out that aadhaar is almost impossible to find again; whereas for voter ID cards there are simpler and better defined ways of replacing a misplaced voter ID card.
third, such a suggestion is more likely increase Electoral fraud. Linking Aadhaar would dilute the integrity of the voter ID database. As we pointed out in 2019, there have been reports of self-reported errors in aadhaar data one and a half times higher as an error in the voter database. The assumption behind the proposal to link the two databases is that the authenticity of personal records in the Aadhaar database will be used to determine the authenticity of a record in the voter ID / EPIC database. However, given the widespread data quality problems in the Aadhaar database, this exercise would compromise the integrity of the records in the voter ID database. Data quality problems in the Aadhaar database – as a result of inadequate registration practices and a lack of effective corrective mechanisms – have been extensively documented – including forged entries and false information. The UIDAI has admitted this itself in various courts, and several courts have refused to accept aadhaar as proof of birth or identity. Recent research has also shown that the Aadhaar-PAN linkage introduced fraudulent entries into the system.
Fourth, Biometric authentication for voting must not become a prerequisite. There are numerous reports of starvation deaths in all states due to aadhaar lack of connections, biometric errors, inadequate infrastructure, and inadequate mechanisms to redress complaints in the implementation of the UIDAI, which were carefully uncovered by the Right to Food Campaign. Fingerprints don’t work for many people, especially those who work with their hands and the elderly, and facial authentication is inaccurate and prone to errors. The UIDAI has tried to circumvent the inaccuracy and problems with biometric authentication through a poorly designed “nominee system” and OTPs in the case of welfare programs. How will that work in the event of a vote? Instead, do we have to send family members to vote if our fingerprints don’t work? It’s also important to mention Voting booths are sometimes placed in remote locations where voting is required processed manually. EVMs are also not connected to an internet connection in order to receive any kind of manipulate. How does biometric verification work in such places without internet?
Fifth, linking these two databases would be an attack on the right to privacy and an opportunity for abuse. We have serious concerns that such a proposal would violate our constitutional and fundamental rights to privacy and voting secrecy. India does not currently have a data protection law, and the current personal data protection law contains wide-ranging exemptions for the government. Any attempt to link Aadhaar to voter IDs would result in Aadhaar-linked demographic information being linked to the voter database. This creates the possibility of disenfranchisement due to identity, increased surveillance, targeted advertising and commercial exploitation of private sensitive data. In 2019, the Cambridge Analytica scandal demonstrated the disastrous impact that deep and invasive voter profiling has had on individuals and democracies. We saw this in India: recently, HC Madras called on the electoral commission to investigate allegations against the Bharatiya Janata Party that it illegally used aadhaar data from voters in Pondicherry to gain political gain in the general election. In 2019, an investigation found that data could have been taken from the UID database in order to delete voter names in Andhra Pradesh – names were removed from electoral rolls. This could be particularly harmful to minorities – a 2018 report found that 20% of Muslim adults were absent from the electoral lists in Karnataka. We have learned from other countries how a single form of electoral identification leads to greater disenfranchisement. In some cases, onerous identity requirements are used to block disenfranchised individuals from voting.
Finally, we cannot trust the ECI’s promise of “voluntariness”. The ECI’s claim that this would be “voluntary” based. This is a completely inadequate safeguard. We have seen throughout the Aadhaar project how “voluntary” on paper translates into a coercive mechanism in practice; and how this changes over time and in practice.
Any proposal to link the UID to the voter IDs must be rejected. “