In this blog, I have been advocating discontinuation of EVMs and even predicted their exit in less than two years. Election Commission of India (ECI) under the stewardship of chief election commissioner Navin Chawla adopted a rigid attitude and pervaded blatant lies about EVMs resulting in a general lack of trust amongst the political bosses of various parties.
Another election commissioner V.S. Sampath, had stated recently that the Election Commission had an open mind on the EVMs and is willing to make the necessary improvements in them. If the Commission is indeed prepared to make improvements in EVMs as it claims, here is a list of do’s that the ECI must be prepared to implement. The following steps if implemented fully may obviate the need to revert to the traditional paper ballot system.
Physical record of voting a must
If EVMs are to survive, it must be ensured that every vote recorded on the EVM is printed out and verified by the voter to be correct. Not confirming to this requirement of verifiable voting amounts to travesty of democracy. Systems are available whereby voters do not need to physically handle the ballots printed which get dropped into the ballot box after the voter has verified it to be correct. (If there is any inconsistency, the voting system allows the voter to cancel the vote and register it again.)
Besides this mandatory requirement to make voting transparent and verifiable, the following security measures are required.
Use Open Source Software: For god’s sake, don’t offer flimsy excuses like this is proprietary software of EVM manufacturers. This is simple programming code that can be developed at a cost of barely Rs. 30,000/. So what is the big deal?
Allow third party verification: Once the software is made open source, allow third party verification of both software and hardware of all EVMs before their use in all future elections. Mock polls are just inadequate.
Upgrade EVMs to make them more secure: A number of independent experts have offered several suggestions to make EVMs more secure. Let there be a debate to make them as secure as possible. For instance, use of ASIC micro chips rather than generic chips will enhance their security.
Stop using state-government owned EVMs: If it is absolutely necessary, use them in other states ruled by other parties. Before their use elsewhere, ensure that they confirm to the same standards as prescribed here for the ECI-EVMs here.
Don’t involve BEL/ ECIL or their suppliers in any operations other than manufacturing: “Navratna” standing and government ownership of EVM manufacturers just don’t impress and make them any more trustworthy. Jimmy Carter and James Baler III have said that it would be foolhardy to trust insiders in the election industry. Listen to the sane advice. Engage multiple agencies (like the NIC) for multiple EVM related operations to have checks and balances.
Form a separate technical department in the Election Commission with experts having up-to-date knowledge of electronic security to supervise all EVM related operations
Randomise EVMs at the national level by maintaining a national pool of EVMs and moving them from one state to another a few weeks before polls
If the ECI thinks that this is botheration to make all these improvements and then provide a voter verified paper trail, an easier way out would be switch over to paper ballots.
In all probability, the ECI wouldn’t consider all these changes. That’s why I think the days of the EVMs are numbered. The EVM reform efforts won’t end until the voting system is reformed or until the EVMs exit the scene. I think the latter is more likely to happen.
I can be reached at nrao@indianEVM.com