The Biggest Election in History

How do you hold an election with 900 million voters? India's about to do just that starting today, with the opening of its 2019 national election.

It's the biggest democratic exercise in history, and the logistics are staggering.


How does it happen? For ease of voting, the country is divided into seven distinct geographical groups with each casting ballots every few days.

How long does it take? The full process takes 6 weeks, and the final results aren't expected until May 23.

How do you make sure everyone votes? All ballots are cast electronically. Indian law mandates that polling stations must be set up within 2 kilometers of every home, meaning a total of 1.72 million voting machines will be put to use. About 11 million election monitors will fan out across India's villages, glaciers and jungles to observe voting.

Election dynamics: The poll is a crucial test of the staying power of current Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Back in 2014, his unique brand of conservative, Hindu-based nationalism propelled his BJP party to the first outright parliamentary majority in decades, leaving the long-ruling Congress Party in tatters. Modi's first term was marked by a controversial crackdown on illicit cash stockpiles and a steady push to put Hinduism at the center of national life.

But the outlook for Modi might not be so rosy this time around. While India is currently the world's fastest growing large economy, many voters feel the fruits of that growth haven't been shared evenly. Pocketbook issues dominate voters' concerns, with 78 percent listing development, price rises, or unemployment as the top election issue. The BJP is also seeing a strong challenge from the opposition Congress Party and a number of regional parties whose support they will need to hold onto power.

That said, a recent military standoff with neighboring Pakistan sent Modi's poll numbers to historic highs. The episode "put national security on the agenda in mass electoral politics in a way that it isn't usually," Milan Vaishnav of the Carnegie Endowment told Signal. Will that be enough to overcome voters' misgivings about the economy?

One key factor we're watching closely is turnout. The general consensus is that if we see something like the record high turnout achieved in 2014, the BJP – which enjoys high support among young and new voters – will be off to a good start. About 84 million Indians are expected to cast their first-ever vote in this year's election.

What's at stake? After five years of Modi's rule, Indians get to decide whether to double down on his vision for political and economic reform or to pitch the country in an entirely different direction.

For a deeper dive on India's important election, check out this fascinating report.

Technology is changing the way modern geologists locate precious resources and harness energy. With supercomputers capable of processing geophysical data from all over the world, geologists are reconstructing models of the subsoil to identify hydrocarbon deposits. The efficiency of these powerful data processors can scan massive rock formations to help laboratories analyze geological systems. While today's modern geologists still have a compass and hammer to collect samples, petaflops of computing power are changing energy research at lightning speed.

Learn more at Eniday: Energy Is A Good Story

Are e-Cigs an example of tech gone wrong?


There's a real tradeoff in e-cigarettes. To the extent that people stop smoking regular cigarettes to use e-cigarettes, that's good. To the extent that new people who wouldn't have been smokers, particularly young people, start smoking, that's bad. Now there are real societal problems and health problems and the data show that there are lots of new people starting to smoke. I don't think of it as much as a tech problem though or tech gone wrong as much as a social problem.


Moviepass has shut down. Final thoughts?


Moviepass was this insane business. You pay them ten dollars a month and then they let you see all the 2D movies you want. That was one business plan. They had about 20 business plans. It's kind of just, there lots of tech companies where the business model is: pay us a dollar and we'll pay you two dollars. And then they say to the venture capitalists: "Look we're growing. Give us more money." Of course that's going to run out.


Nostalgia. What's the next old tech about to make a resurgence?


Snapchat. A year ago, it looked like they were poached. That Instagram was just going to knock them out. And now, everybody's using Snapchat again.

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