Since 2001, the Election Commission has been conducting all elections through EVMs.
- The Indian EVM is a stand-alone computer that is a direct recording system.
- Several times, the Election Commission has explained that Indian EVMs do not speak to any computer outside their own device, be it via wired network, internet, satellite, and bluetooth or Wi-Fi.
- The EVM is not linked to the server, so it is not possible to cyber-hack Indian EVMs unless an authorized entity acts with malafide intent.
- A whopping 55.38 crore individuals cast their votes in EVMs in parliamentary elections in 2014.
EVM CHALLENGE: FORENSIC LAB TEST FOR EVMS
- The Election Commission has rejected all the allegations of EVM tampering over the years and obtained scientific evidence in 2017 to support its assertion.
- In May, the Bombay High Court ordered EVMs from the 'Parvati constituency in Pune' to be investigated.
- The order to rule out tampering was given during the 2014 Maharashtra legislative assembly elections.
- One control unit was sent to the laboratory, one ballot unit and two batteries. A control unit and a ballot unit form an EVM.
- The system is a stand-alone, non-networked, one-time programmable device that is neither externally operated by a computer or nor could be connected internally or to any network, according to the report received from the laboratory.
- After being submitted to the high court, the report was made public.
- In order to show that the computers are incorruptible, the Election Commission has also thrown open the EVM hackathon competition. No political party, however, showed interest.
HOW THE WORLD HAS DEALT WITH EVMS:
- The US is the world's oldest modern democracy, but it does not have a standardized method of voting.
- Some states continue to use ballot papers, although others have turned to e-voting.
- A key point in the US electronic voting experiment was the connection of its voting machines to a server and the use of the internet. It makes them easier to cyber-attacks.
- Some unseen Russian hands have been accused of manipulating the choice of voters in the last presidential election.
- In 2005, in Europe's largest democracy, electronic voting was adopted.
- Germany purchased voting machines from a private corporation in the Netherlands to hold its elections.
- Several layers of deficiencies were later identified to the machines.
- The Federal Constitutional Court of Germany held in 2009 that it was illegal to use electronic voting devices in elections and noted that such a method lacked accountability.
- It became the first country in 2005 to pass a law mandating electronic voting using the internet.
- Estonia claims to have carried out the first national Internet-based elections in 2007. It went on for 3 days.
- Brazil and Venezuela have been quite successfully using electronic voting on a wide scale.
METHODOLOGY USED TO PICK EVMS:
- To ensure that EVMs record the actual vote, the Election Commission puts in place a multilayered security protocol.
- The Election Commission carries out the first-level check of the machines, months before the actual vote.
- All leaders of political parties are present to observe the exercise. Faulty computers are eliminated.
- The machines pick the EVMs on the basis of randomization. This procedure does not allow for prior information or a scheduled setting in a particular constituency or polling booth for a specific EVM.
- For the pairing of the ballot unit and the EVM control unit, there is a double randomization procedure
- This step makes it difficult for an individual to know how to pair the machines and which machine will be used in which circle.
- The final order of the candidates shall not be put on the ballot unit of the EVM till the last day of withdrawal of names.
- EVMs are again checked for proper functioning after this is completed, usually 13 days prior to the polling.
- During this activity, the leaders of political parties and candidates are present.
- They sign a certificate stating that after the procedure finishes to their satisfaction, the EVMs are in order.
- The EVMs are sealed with a special security number before being eventually sent to the polling booths. The members of the parties or candidates are also present at this point and sign the stamp.
- In order to wipe out the possibility of predictability, the Election Commission places the candidates' names in an alphabetical order for each electorate.
- In addition, the Election Commission announced that all potential elections would be held with the VVPAT, making it possible for each voter to see that only the candidate chosen would obtain his / her vote.
WHEN THE SOLUTION BECAME THE PROBLEM:
The controversy over failing VVPATs –
- Reports emerged during by-elections for four Lok Sabha and ten State Assembly seats of a large-scale failure of the voter-verifiable paper audit trail machines.
- The malfunction was so widespread that 73 booths of the Kairana parliamentary constituency in Uttar Pradesh, 49 booths of the Maharashtra seat in Bhandara-Gondiya and one booth of the Nagaland Lok Sabha seat were ordered by the Election Commission to be re-elected.
- The Chief Election Commissioner has accused the VVPAT machines of malfunctioning due to extreme hot weather and sensor sensitivity to sun.
- This is very troubling because they were exposed to harsh weather conditions when the trials for VVPATs were performed in 2011 and 2012.
- The second explanation given by the CEC, was the inexperience of the workers who first handled these devices, seems more likely.
- It is important to note that after an all-party meeting in 2010, it was precisely to eliminate the last remnants of concerns about EVMs that VVPAT machines were introduced.
- Indeed, in 2013, the Supreme Court of India acknowledged the initiative of the EC to implement VVPATs and directed the government to provide sufficient funding for them.
- However, in an affidavit to the Supreme Court last year, the government postponed sanctioning the funds for more than three years, which almost jeopardized the development of the requisite number of VVPAT machines to fulfil the EC's pledge that it would supply the machines at every polling station during the 2019 general election.
CORRECTIVE ACTS TAKEN BY EC:
- The latest VVPATs are supposed to have sensors with hoods over them to protect against direct light exposure.
- For use in humid areas, moisture resistant paper will be obtained. The decision was taken by one of the two state-owned companies that produce VVPATs, the Electronics Corporation of India.
The role of the EC in assuring the confidence of the people in democracy is paramount. In democracy and its protective institutions, the loss of popular trust spells nothing but tragedy. But there is no doubt that the EVMs have made India the proud world leader in the election sector. Our method is now full proof since the launch of VVPATs.