How do Elections at IIT Madras happen?

Democracy is the essence of the very existence of our nation and its development, and it is only fair that it extends to form a student union or representative group in an institute of repute like IIT Madras. Elections at IIT Madras manifest a highly productive experimentation with technology to make the democratic process more accessible and better, year after year. The student body responsible for the conduct of the elections, right from the nominations to the result announcement, is the Student Ethics and Constitutional Commission, which functions as per the Student Constitution of IIT Madras.

The SECC monitors all activities related to the elections, such as campaigning, publicity, and the core election processes, such as nominations, publicizing final candidates’ details, looking into the validity of candidature, and so on. The election process can be divided into three stages -

  • Filing of nominations: After a thorough inspection by the Commission, headed by the SECC Commissioner, the validity of the candidature is ensured, and the final nomination list is publicized among the general student body—essentially the voters—via the student mail. According to the Student Constitution, every student of IIT Madras has the right to contest and vote in elections.
  • Soapboxes: The SECC conducts soapboxes for all the posts, with all candidates standing for a position. The soapbox is the platform where the voters can interact with the candidates and question their manifesto points, proposed initiatives, feasibility and credibility of the candidates, and so on. The soapbox is essential since it helps the voters assess the accountability of the candidates and whether they have the adequate experience and knowledge to handle the post’s power and responsibility.
  • The Election Day: After the campaigning, the voters flock to their assigned polling booths and cast votes. The votes are cast for about 160 posts; these include Institute Secretaries, Speakers, Hostel Secretaries, Department posts, etc. The Student Legislative Council comprising the SLC Speaker, Hostel Legislators, Department Legislators, etc., is formed through the election process.

The campaigning during the elections at IIT Madras occurs in various hues. All candidates express their zeal and commitment toward their potential posts by interacting with students at multiple places. Online campaigning through social media platforms is done formally by the candidates and often in informal ways by the supporters and opposers, which seems amusing in the days leading up to D-Day. Candidates do their best to address every faction of students possible - outside hostels, near cafes, and even departments. A lot of work is put in to bring out the best manifesto and extensive feasibility reports, which every voter can read, relate to, and based on which they can make an informed choice to build an effective student governance system.

The WebOps and Blockchain Club from the Centre for Innovation (CFI) at IIT Madras was awarded the ‘Blockchain Software for Students Body Election’ record by the India Book of Records for conducting the SLC elections held via blockchain technology. The Election Commission of India has been persuading IITs to implement such technology to make the processes smoother. Earlier, the elections were marred with issues like server blocks, device non-compatibility, delayed processing, etc., which were rectified with blockchain elections. The link to the entire election process is made available to the public, making it easy for anyone to calculate the votes and get to know the results. Blockchain elections helped achieve the much sought-after transparency in the polls. Device compatibility, email IDs, and OTPs were unnecessary as identification happens through a wallet address granted to the voters. Their votes are immutable to the extent that even the operators cannot alter them. A code known as the Smart Contract on the Blockchain auto-executes the entire process and is the face of the logic behind the technology.

The SECC hires freshers during elections as volunteers, and they work with the election coordinators to ensure a smooth voting process. A look at hostel-wise and department-wise statistics at the end of polling shows the most active hostel and department during the elections. These elections ensure that students’ issues and grievances are brought to light and articulated to the administration promptly and efficiently through the elected representatives, who are the voice of the entire student community at IIT Madras.