Because polling booths could become super-spreaders, the presidential election in the US could see an unprecedented volume of postal ballots. Politically, the role of postmen is now so important that President Donald Trump, who is trailing in opinion polls, hints darkly that heavy polling through mailboxes would cause corruption. But what’s remarkable is that despite the endless debate over the virtues of traditional versus electronic voting, despite the fact that Silicon Valley enjoys the trust of billions worldwide, Americans still trust bits of paper delivered by human hands.
This is because instinctively, we know that it is much easier to hack a digital network than a human network, made of disparate people, with diverse political inclinations and beliefs, spread across a diverse nation. In the US postal system, there is no room for Putin or Guccifer 2.0, and no possibility of a man in the middle attack. An election dominated by postal ballots is guaranteed diddle-free, by human diversity alone. Of course, Indians appreciate the human frailties of the postal system. Books and expensive magazine subscriptions vanish in the mail, and their contents surface in second-hand bookshops. Onam food parcels are delivered stuffed with newspapers, like the one in your hands, their scrumptious contents having vanished into the maw of faceless and heartless postmasters.
But the postal system, a human network, is immune to hacking, the nemesis of democracy after the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandals. It is old-fashioned analog. Ever since email arrived, the world’s postal services have faced irrelevance. And yet, postmen sometimes spring a surprise. As they do now in the US, as defenders of democracy.