Friday, February 16, 2007

Role of Probability in Simplifying Elections

I have often wondered why even poor countries spend prohibitively large amount of money for conducting elections. India being the largest democracy in the world, the amount spent on elections is enormous. The election to the House of People (Lok Sabha) which is supposed to be conducted every five years incurs an expenditure of over ten thousand million rupees. In addition, there are the elections to the Legislative Assemblies (of the states) and numerous bodies at the Village, Block and District levels. Often, these democratic bodies do not live through the stipulated term (of five years in the case of Parliament and Legislative Assemblies) and mid term elections become necessary. You can very well imagine how prohibitive the cost of all these elections is.
Apart from the cost factor, how much time and energy is spent on these elections also is a matter of concern.
Probability plays a vital role in all phenomena in nature. Any Physics student knows that the electron in the hydrogen atom is normally found at a distance of almost 0.53×10–10 metre from the nucleus. This is the most probable distance and not the exact distance. [In fact, according to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, nothing in nature can be measured with cent per cent accuracy and this uncertainty principle also plays a very important role in the very constitution of matter].
Since probability plays a crucial role in nature, it is logical to apply it in all situations, especially in cases where large numbers are involved. So why not use it in making the election process simple and economical?
Why should all electors vote in an election? If you take the case of a typical Lok Sabha (Parliament) constituency in India, with one million voters, hundred thousand or ten thousand voters picked out at random by a computer will be sufficient to determine the acceptable candidate. You can imagine the significant saving in the cost, time and energy.
If the majority of voters in a constituency support the candidate ‘A’, then the probability for the inclusion of voters supporting ‘A’ in the randomly picked voters’ group (who are thus qualified to vote) is definitely high, especially when the number involved is high. This is a basic principle in probability theory, as many of you might know.
I will call this system of election the reduced voter system. In this system of adult franchise, all those who have attained the stipulated age will be electors as usual, but only the reduced voters (randomly picked out by a computer) will be allowed to vote. There will be no restriction to anybody in the electoral roll in contesting the election as a candidate, but he will be allowed to vote only if he happens to be included among the reduced voters.
In the extreme case, when all voters are ‘equal’ (with nobody ‘more equal’), the system will become a no cost system when a computer picks out the members of parliament and the legislative assembly and may be even the President!

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