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Why EVMs would go (Part 1): Because they aren’t fraud resistant

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.

German Judgment

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 the electronic count.” The principles enunciated by the German Court are universal ones applicable to all democracies.

Three Essential Elements

Three essential elements are important for a voting system to be considered credible. They are:

Transparency: Voters should be able to ‘observe’ the voting and counting process without any specialized knowledge, feel confident that their vote has been correctly recorded and would be fairly counted, and that any occurrence or attempt to commit electoral fraud would be easily detected by general public.

Verifiability: It should be possible to verify in case of a recount, through a proper examination of the physical record of ballots, whether the declared result was the same as the actual votes cast or any discrepancy exists. This is referred to as auditability.

Accountability: if anything with the election process goes wrong, the voting system should be such that it can be detected instantly, responsibility can be fixed clearly, and remedial steps can be initiated immediately.

In the traditional system of paper ballots, all these essential requirements were met adequately. At present, the electronic voting machines used in Indian elections do not meet any of these three elements. In the present EVMs, voters have no way of knowing if their vote is recorded or counted properly. In case of any doubt, neither voters nor candidates can seek a genuine recount as no physical record of votes is generated and all voting data is stored only on electronic memory devices.

And, if something goes wrong with the recording or counting of an election, there is no means of detecting it or proving it. And of course fixing responsibility is out of the question and no one can be held accountable in this non-transparent, unverifiable system.

The present system of non-transparent, secretive, elitist and “faith based”  electronic voting has to make way for an open, transparent and fraud resistant voting system.

Growing Skepticism on EVMs

A few months ago, the Indian media and political class – taken in by the ‘propaganda’ of the ECI that its EVMs are wonder machines, unriggable et al. – seemed skeptical of our efforts for reform in voting system. 13 political parties have submitted a joint memorandum demanding a review of EVMs. Media which always placed a premium on ECI’s statements (read lies) on EVMs now realises that there is more to the EVMs than what meets the eye.

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has two options. It could continue to insist that its EVMs are wonder machines and hence there is no need for any reform. Alternately, the ECI may change tune and engage all stakeholders in a debate to become a part of the solution. This has now become imperative in the wake of combined opposition by  political parties.

The EVMs would go soon; irrespective of whether the mandarins of the ECI want it or not. If they continue to resist, citing the same flimsy grounds, the ‘disband EVMs’ order would be presented as a fait accompli by the Courts or the Parliament . Would the ECI risk losing its face? By the present reckoning, that appears to be an inevitable climax to the ongoing EVM battle.

I can be reached at nrao@indianEVM.com

This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 25th, 2010 at 3:17 AM and is filed under COUNTDOWN. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

One Response to “Why EVMs would go (Part 1): Because they aren’t fraud resistant”

  1. Manohar Gorantala Says:

    Hi GVLN,
    Kudos to you for the great work you’re doing in this monumental project.
    People like me are solidly behind you.
    We need to save democracy and save the country itself from the mafia.