Archive for May, 2010
By dint of my profession as an election forecaster, I meet and discuss election prospects with a wide range of political parties. They all now fear the EVM factor in polls. Large scale malfunctioning of EVMs in polls, surprising election outcomes, ‘business’ enquiries by techies offering fixing solutions and the wider public awareness of vulnerabilities of EVMs by activists over the past year have all contributed to healthy doubts and skepticism about EVMs.
Interestingly, one group that we have been able to influence is the officials of the Election Commission of India and officials involved at state and district levels. They are much less convinced about the EVMs as they were earlier yet their occupational compulsions dictate that they cannot support our arguments.
Why have our efforts begun to make a telling impact so quickly? It is because our arguments are extremely powerful, the facts we have presented are incontrovertible and the scientific evidence that [...]
We all know that the parties and candidates would do everything to win elections. Last month, we we were given a shocker by prominent leader of a political party when we showed him and his colleagues a demonstration on how the ECI-EVMs could bemanipulated.
The incident happened last month when I accompanied Hari Prasad and his team to demonstrate the vulnerabilities of the real Indian EVM used in elections to a number of political parties. This was done a couple of weeks prior to the public release of the research findings by the team comprising Hari Prasad, Rop Gonggrijp and Alex Halderman.
All the leaders who witnessed the demonstration were shocked to see the vulnerabilities of EVMs. One enterprising party leader asked us, “Can you actually manipulate EVMs in our state? We will ensure that you gain access to the voting machines.”
We were utterly unprepared to hear something like this. The person in question is a senior party [...]
Skeptics who are now convinced that EVM tampering is possible have a question to ask: is tampering of electronic voting machines merely a theoretical proposition (as Prof Indiresan, ECI’s expert committee chairman would have you believe) or is there any ground level evidence of tampering?
The answer to this question lies in personal experiences and encounters of a number of senior political leaders with “EVM fixers”. From these personal accounts, it is evident that there is more to the EVM story than what meets the eye.
Take a look at some such shocking incidents narrated to me ever since I began to explore electronic voting machines in the wake of surprising election outcomes. The first such incident relates to fixing by insider-technicians having easy access to the voting machines.
(Want EVMs fixed? Pay Rs. 5 Crore)
Weeks after elections to the Maharashtra state assembly in October last year, Omesh Saigal, a retired IAS officer and a whistle [...]
Mandarins at the Election Commission of India have been largely dismissive of the serious misgivings among political parties, candidates and citizens’ groups about electronic voting. They cannot win over others by their arguments. So they try to rubbish them on flimsy grounds.
Elections are all about trust. If the losers and their supporters do not trust the election results and is there is no “physical evidence” or basis to show that their fears are unfounded, the legitimacy of election results would remain perpetually under a cloud.
The Federal Constitutional Court of Germany which held the use of electronic voting machines unconstitutional in March, 2009 observed that the election process should be transparent in a manner that the general public can be satisfied that their vote is correctly recorded and counted and there should be a provision whereby ‘the votes are recorded in another way besides electronic storage’ and there is ‘retraceability’ of the election result independently of [...]
Those who have served the Election Commission of India as ex-commissioners and in various other capacities swear by these voting machines. A bevy of ex-chief election commissioners stood proudly a few weeks ago on a national television channel to receive an award for using the wonder machines! If voting machine is all that the ECI has to showcase as its achievement in the service of the nation, they clearly don’t deserve it.
I appeared on a TV 9 prime time show a couple of weeks ago along with Mr. K.J. Rao, formerly Adviser in the Election Commission of India. K.J. Rao is an official of unquestioned integrity and is credited for conducting the cleanest ever elections in the violence prone Bihar. When it comes to debating EVMs, even people like him become extremely touchy and make bizarre statements. On the TV programme, he said that the EVMs designed by the ECIL and BEL are so sophisticated and [...]
Training of polling personnel on use of electronic voting machines leaves much to be desired. Presiding officers attending these training programmes say that the training is more of a formality and not a serious affair. There is no standardized content or structure for the training. Nor is adequate number of technical persons available for training.
Presiding officers who are in-charge of polling stations are given classroom training in large batches in conference halls. They get hardly any practical training in conducting elections on EVMs.
Vinay Kumar, a teacher who worked as a presiding officer in the 2009 Jharkhand assembly elections says, “We are given a briefing about the functions and operation of the voting machines in large groups and told to read detailed notes given in the presiding officers’ diary. Each group of 10 persons is given one voting machine to practice on our own on the voting machine. Then, we are asked to sign in a [...]
Dear Shri Navin Chawla,
I am writing this letter to render some unsolicited advice on the raging debate over the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in elections. Having studied all the aspects concerning Indian EVMs in depth as the author of the only book on them, I believe that you would immensely benefit from my advice.
Mr. Chawla, your tenure in the Election Commission is drawing to a close by the end of July, 2010. It would not be unfair to say that your tenure would be remembered more for controversies and not for any notable contributions.
I am sure you are looking forward to continued involvement in public life. Speculations are rife that you are tipped for either a prestigious diplomatic assignment or a Rajya Sabha nomination in the nominated category.
In the remaining two months of your tenure, you have an opportunity to initiate actions that would help people make a favourable assessment of your term. The [...]
In an article devoid of scholarliness published today, Prof. P.V. Indiresan, chairman of the expert committee appointed by the Election Commission of India makes disingenuous and feeble arguments in favour of continuation of the electronic voting machines (EVMs) in their present form.
Here is the link for his article published in the Hindu Business Line on May 17, 2010.
The only substantive statement that he makes about which I have no reservations is that “No machine is perfect; every machine can be bugged.” Much else in his article is objectionable.
Indiresan says the display attack demonstrated (by Hari Prasad, Rop Gonggrijp and Alex Halderman) is faulty for many reasons. (http://indianevm.com/videos.php?id=17)
Indiresan says, “One, the results are not taken from the display but from the memory inside. Hence, the results that would be printed out would not be affected at all.”
All the election results are taken from the display on the control unit. In the attack demonstrated, criminals can [...]
The case of missing EVM in Maharashtra reported by the chief electoral officer of the state once again brings to light the lax storage of the electoral voting machines.
Let us first examine the guidelines for the storage of EVMs. The Commission’s Handbook for Returning Officers (2009) says, “As a general policy, the Commission desires that all EVMs available within a district shall be stored at the district headquarters under the direct control of the District Election Officer or in a decentralized manner in different locations.”
Security of voting machines throughout their life cycle is of paramount importance. “Voting machines must remain secure throughout their entire service lifetime”, said Hovav Shacham, professor of computer science in the University of California, U.S whose team had demonstrated how hackers can steal ballots from electronic voting machines.
Thus, voting machines must remain in a secure environment throughout their life, not just when the election process is underway. If the security is [...]
I had referred to the problem of EVMs observed in Tamil Nadu and Orissa in my previous blogs. In this post, I am listing a number of cases where the votes have been lost in the EVMs after they have been cast!
At many polling stations, EVMs worked perfectly on the polling day, but failed to read the stored voting data on the counting day. We have come across a large number of such cases in which the EVMs failed to read data stored in the memory of the EVMs. In all such cases, the returning officers discounted the polling data.
For instance, in Andhra Pradesh, in six polling stations of Parkal assembly constituency (numbering 185, 197, 209, 212, 221 and 224), all the votes cast in the control units have been lost. A similar situation was observed in several other constituencies: Ramagundam assembly constituency (polling stations 60 and 61), Alampur (SC) constituency (polling stations 60 and [...]