The political landscape of India has been disrupted after a US-based hacker made a sensational claim about rigging 2014 General elections for a political party by hacking the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).
Ever since the revelations, major political parties of India started the blame game while the Election Commission (EC) rubbished the sensational claims.
While the 2019 Lok Sabha polls are around the corner, the controversy muddied in the run up to the elections in India.
Here is a quick cheat sheet on the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs):
Since when EVMs are being used in the Indian polling system
EVMs were first used in 1982 in 50 polling stations in the byelection to Kerala’s Parur assembly seat.
In 1998 numbers increased to 16 assembly seats in MP, Rajasthan and Delhi. In 2004 Lok Sabha election was conducted completely on EVMs.
How does an EVM work?
The control unit is the key component in any EVM as it stores data and contains the software that controls the EVM’s functioning.
This programme is fused into a microchip that can be neither altered nor overwritten. After voting in ended, the close button is pressed and the machine is disabled so that it can’t accept any new data.
Later the votes are matched with total votes polled as recorded in booth register. EVMs used in India is a standalone device which is not connected to any external network or device.
Here are few Steps EC take to make EVMs tamper proof:
- In the first-level checking (FLC) security process by Election Commission, Engineers from Bharat Electronics Ltd and Electronics Corporation of India Ltd (the companies that supply EVMs) certify the originality of components after technical and physical examination of each EVM. This task is completed in front of the representatives of various political parties.
- After a thorough examination, defective EVMs are sent back to the factory.
- During the FLC, the hall-where EVMs are examined-is sanitized to ensure that it is free of any other electronic device or components of electronic devices. Entry to the hall is restricted and the entire place is under tight security by the police force. No camera, mobile phone or spy device is allowed inside the hall.
- In the next step, the Election Commission conducts a mock poll of at least 1,000 votes on 10% of randomly selected EVMs by representatives of polling candidates. The results are shown to them. The Election Commission captures entire process on a video.
- In the bid to avoid fixed allocation, EVMs are randomised twice while being allocated to an Assembly and then to a polling booth.
- Another mock polling is conducting after reaching the polling booth, in front of polling agents just before the polling starts for the day.
- After polling is concluded, EVMs are sealed with polling agents’ signatures on the seal.
- The EVMs are then transported to a secure storage centre called strong room. Strong rooms are guarded 24×7 with several layers of security.
- For the satisfactio, the candidates are allowed to put their own seals on the strong rooms where polled EVMs are stored after the poll. In fact the representatives can also camp in front of strong rooms.
- Finally, the EVMs are brought to the counting centres and unique IDs of the seals and control unit are shown to representatives of candidates before the counting begins. The counting staff and counting agents take note of the votes cast for each candidate in the serial number.
Use of EVMs outside India
Besides India, 25 countries have used/still use Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in their electoral process with India being the largest user. But certainly, it is not the most popular choice in the world. Many countries like Germany have reverted to the Paper-based votes.
Countries currently using EVM nationwide: Brazil, Estonia, India, Venezuela
What is VVPAT?
Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) is a method that provides feedback to the voters. It is an independent verification printer machine which is attached to the electronic voting machines (EVMs) which allow voters to verify if their vote has gone to the intended candidate.
When a voter presses a button in the EVM, a paper slip is printed through the VVPAT. The slip contains the poll symbol and name of the candidate. It allows the voter to verify his/her choice. After being visible to the voter from a glass case in the VVPAT for seven seconds, the ballot slip will be cut and dropped into the drop box in the VVPAT machine and a beep will be heard.