Satya and I have been watching the election very closely.  He noted a few differences in how voting is done here vs. India.  I think the differences are very interesting and maybe in the future the U.S. will adopt some practices.   Here is how the largest democracy in the world operates its elections:


-Election Day is a holiday in India.


-There is not just one Election Day for the whole country.  This is because the military and the para military keep a close watch to ensure violence does not break out.  The whol military cannot cover the whole country on the same day. 


-There are symbols for each candidate (a wheel, hand, etc.) so that even illiterate people or those unable to read the local language can vote.  This already happens in some places here.  A woman from NY was saying that there people stamp either an elephant or donkey for their choices. 


-Voters get one of their fingers dipped in indelible ink to prevent repeat voting.  The ink is very noticeable and lasts for nearly a month.  When Satya’s parents arrived here last May, this ink was on their fingers and lasted for a long time.  The ink is called “Mysore Ink” and is owned and operated by Karnataka’s government.  Other countries using the ink include such varied countries as Canada, Singapore, Afganistan, Ghana.


-Electronic voting machines.  I think the whole of India uses the same style of machines vs. the U.S.’s variety of voting mechanisms (touch screens, pencil and paper, stamps, etc.).  I think for fairness that the whole country should use the same type of machine. 


-Campaigning stops 48 hours before the election.  In the U.S. both Obama and McCain were campaigning the morning of Election Day.


-People in India do not directly vote for the prime minister or president.  They are selected by the parties in power and are chosen from the members of parliament. 


I do think that Election Day should be a holiday so that everyone gets a chance to vote and that the same style of voting machine should be used by all.  That will increase fairness and help those who move often. 


Also, I think all U.S. states should agree on how people can register to vote.  In my home state of Minnesota, people can register to vote on the day of the election itself.  Where I live now, the deadline to register was one month before the election which I think is ridiculous because it potentially excludes a lot of people because people may not know about the registration deadline.  Without being registered, people cannot vote.  Voting should be made as simple as possible to include the greatest number of people.


Overall, both Satya and I were very relieved that yesterday’s election went much smoother than those of 2000 and 2004.  The results are clear-Obama won both the popular and electoral votes and there were no major repeats of the previous fiascos in Florida and Ohio.


7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Andrea
    Nov 06, 2008 @ 20:57:53

    My husband and I were discussing this yesterday, too!
    I agree about the messedup registration process here – here in AZ people have to register by Oct. 6. I worked as an election observer on Tuesday and couldn’t help but note that nearly every single one of the nearly 50 people who were forced into using provisional ballots (because they weren’t on the rolls or their address had changed) were either minorities or college students. I think the process is really unfair for highly mobile and/or disenfranchised populations.
    I think the issue is that we have so many issues on our ballots – so it really does matter exactly which neigbhorhood you live in (otherwise, you could have people for, say, another school district voting on your school district’s elections). My husband insists they don’t vote on all those different issues at the same time in India and he thinks that works better…


  2. Vikram
    Nov 06, 2008 @ 21:20:44

    I dont know how well Americans will take to being compared with India, 🙂 . Telling them that its done this way in India, might actually convince them otherwise !


  3. minnesotameetskarnataka
    Nov 07, 2008 @ 16:37:52

    @ Andrea: I never really thought about the fact that there are so many local proposals on the ballots. Maybe having a separate local and national election would make sense. I was surprised at the proposals on my ballot-it was the first time I’d seen or heard about them. On the other hand, do you think people would show up for an election on purely local concerns?

    @ Vikram: True, many Americans have a view of India that hasn’t changed much-dusty, poor, etc. The changes would have to be proposed very diplomatically to save American pride. Still, I think it makes sense to look at worldwide election “best practices”.


  4. Vikram
    Nov 08, 2008 @ 02:29:06

    Well, I should have been clearer but I actually meant the scholars and more informed populace. India’s political system is infamous for its volatility and its inability to get the job done (although these are actually the consequences of India’s stratified society).

    Americans are not wrong to think that India is poor, it is poor by American standards 🙂 . It is actually upto Indians to realize that they dont have to be rich like Americans to be happy. 28 different languages, 6 major religions and 2 millinea of very diverse cultural developments is a greater wealth than any amount of money. The sooner Indians realize this, the better for the world at large.


  5. minnesotameetskarnataka
    Nov 08, 2008 @ 15:23:07

    Vikram, in your opinion what are the best things about how elections are run in India?

    I think there is a lot that the US can learn from India and vice versa. Both countries are very diverse, are democratic, and hold huge (by voting population numbers) national elections.

    You are right that material wealth doesn’t always bring happiness. That is one of the points that the book “Marrying Anita” makes clear–wealth and a variety of choices don’t always make for a contented life.


  6. Vikram
    Nov 08, 2008 @ 19:33:16

    “Vikram, in your opinion what are the best things about how elections are run in India?”

    Well, one thing in India is that some seats are reserved for people from the oppressed castes and women. Although, this isnt always an effective strategy for equality but it has had many positive effects. Many leaders from the lower castes have come up and so have women. This, though is a good approach in the context of developing, ‘post-colonial’ nations, I dont know if the US needs this.


  7. some body
    May 24, 2009 @ 15:07:10

    i think the usa and india definitely need to exchange notes and compare practices.

    – election holiday: good
    – indelible ink: you be the judge
    – voting for party (india) vs. one person (usa): i think both are required; would cut down on the horse-trading that is the norm in india and is now picking up in the usa too (thanks, specter)


    gerrymandering did not originate in india! 😉 point being that in usa also there are constituencies created to ‘take care’ of minorities (maybe not as strictly enforced as in india). but then, i don’t like that reservation in india either!

    – s.b.


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