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Rediff.com  » News » 'A Faulty EVM Can Be Manipulated'

'A Faulty EVM Can Be Manipulated'

By SHOBHA WARRIER
April 25, 2024 09:54 IST
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'The fraud is the electronic voting machine is being manipulated by humans, and not counting the votes that is shown on VVPAT.'

IMAGE: Electoral officers during a training programme on commissioning EVM and VVPATs ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in Guwahati. Photograph: ANI Photo

On the 17th of April, in a mock poll conducted in Kasargod, It was alleged by the UDF and LDF candidates that at least four electronic voting machines (EVM) registered extra votes in favour of BJP.

Kerala Chief Electoral Officer Sanjay Kaul described it as a 'procedural mistake'.

When the Supreme Court asked the Election Commission to look into the allegation, the Election Commission 'rubbished' the reports of EVM manipulation.

The Supreme Court's directive came while hearing petitions filed by the election watchdog, the Association of Democratic Reforms and others seeking verification of data against all VVPAT (Voter-Verifiable Paper Audit Trail) slips.

It was in March 2023 that the Association for Democratic Reforms filed a petition before the Supreme Court saying that to ensure free and fair elections, the tally from the EVMs should be cross-verified with the VVPATs.

Retired IAS officer of the 1968 batch, M G Devasahayam (before joining the IAS, he was commissioned in the Indian Army in 1964 and fought in the 1965 War and counter-insurgency operations in Nagaland in 1967-1968) was one of the signatories of the Central Information Commission's representation to the poll panel questioning the credibility of EVMs and VVPAT machines.

"Ballot paper is the gold standard of electoral democracy," Mr Devasahayam tells Rediff.com's Shobha Warrier.

 

The Supreme Court of India on April 18, 2024 reserved its verdict on the petitions demanding 100% cross-verification of votes cast on EVMs with Voter Verified Paper Audit Trails (VVPATs).
Are you disappointed?

From the 2019 elections onwards, we have the VVPATs. When the voter presses the button, for 7 seconds, the details of his or her vote is shown on the VVPAT screen.

But after the introduction of VVPAT, there are two votes, one on the EVM and another on the VVPAT as the slip you see on the screen.

The question is, which is the real vote? Is what you see the real vote? But then, that is not counted.

Elections are meant for democracy and in the democracy principle, there has to be End-to-End verifiability needed for the voter.

Due to the absence of End-to-End verifiability, the present EVM/VVPAT system is not verifiable and therefore is unfit for democratic elections.

As per the democracy principle, the voter has the right to know that his or her vote is cast.

Secondly, the voter also must know that his or her vote is recorded.

The third principle is, what is recorded is counted.

So, you see your vote on the VVPAT, but the Election Commission is not counting it. That's where the suspicion comes in.

It was found that in the 2019 election, there were discrepancies between the votes counted and the number of votes cast...

Yes, discrepancy was found not in one or two, but 345 constituencies. It's a proven fact.

But instead of keeping all the slips from these constituencies, they were burnt. Why?

As you know, the only institution that can question the Election Commission is the Supreme Court. So, we appealed to the Supreme Court about the fraud, but the court did not take up the case for five years.

The fraud is the electronic voting machine is being manipulated by humans, and not counting the votes that is shown on VVPAT.

We had placed all this in front of the Supreme Court years ago.

Our demand was to give the slip in the hands of the voter and let the voter put it in a box. And they should count the slips too.

IMAGE: EVMs being dispatched to their respective polling booths in Chennai, April 18, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

Even the public now feel that EVMs are tampered with, and as per some opinion polls, lots of people have lost faith in the EVMs...

Yes, lots of people have lost faith in the EVMs.

A few days ago, there was this survey conducted by The Hindu, CSDS-Lokniti 2024 pre-poll survey, and it found that 50% of the people have no trust in the EVMs.

As we people are on the ground, we get this feedback.

Does the Election Commission know the reality? They are secluded from people, more so with this new Z security! Can anybody go anywhere near them?

IMAGE: Polling officials leave for their respective polling stations after collecting EVMs and other election material in Tehri Garhwal. Photograph: ANI Photo

Why can't we have ballot papers? All over the world, democracies use ballot papers. Those who tried machines also went back to ballot papers...

Ballot papers are the gold standards for democracy.

It comprises all the three principles of democracy.

It is not right for an honourable judge to say, I am 60 years old and we have seen what happened with paper ballots,.

I myself have conducted many elections with paper ballots. It is true in those days, there were booth capturing and ballot stamping.

But then, that was 50 years ago. Transportation was primitive then, information technology was primitive, security was primitive, telecommunication was primitive.. everything was primitive and done manually.

Now, booths are under the radar. There are CCTV cameras everywhere, and can be watched from anywhere. There are security guards with rifles guarding the booths. Telecommunication is instant with mobile phones.

But electronically, machines can be manipulated by someone sitting somewhere else.

IMAGE: M G Devasahayam

That's what many people worry about...

People are right. We have been struggling to make the Election Commission realise this. But they say, EVMs are infallible.

I am not saying it is manipulated. But by providing a system that can be manipulated, you are giving an opportunity to some people to do it.

EVM was introduced 25 years ago. We live in an era where technology changes fast. Experts tell me that a particular technology becomes irrelevant after 6 months to 1 year! It means you have to upgrade the system at regular intervals.

But nothing has been done on these machines in the last 25 years. Why?

IMAGE: First-time voters show their ink-marked fingers after casting their votes at a polling booth in East Khasi Hills, Meghalaya. Photograph: ANI Photo

The Supreme Court said EVMs are accurate unless they are maligned by human bias. Is that not what people also think?

Machines by itself can't do any mischief or malpractice, only human intervention will cause that. That's why we said, design the machines in such a way that human intervention will be minimum.

The problem is how the machine is designed. If it is designed in a faulty manner, it can be manipulated.

I asked about the design but they said, it could not be revealed. So, nobody knows anything about the design.

This is the point I was trying to make.

Another point is, there is no need for this matter to go to the Supreme Court.

Because the mandate for holding free and fair elections as per Article 324 lies with the Election Commission and not the Supreme Court.

Article 324 also gives extraordinary powers to the Election Commission to conduct free and fair elections.

But the Election Commission stands completely alienated from the public.

WATCH: How VVPAT Paper Vote Printing Can Manipulated

 

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com

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SHOBHA WARRIER / Rediff.com