In Today’s blog, I am reproducing excerpts from my guest column published in the latest issue of ‘Tehelka’ magazine dated July 10. Do read the full article at the link given at the end of this blog.
The Case Against Electronic Voting
By GVL Narasimha Rao
Why is India embracing EVMs, when the world is moving away from them, as they are easy to tamper with?
ELECTRONIC VOTING machines (EVMs) have been in universal use in India since the general election of 2004, when paper ballots were phased out completely. For the past several months, there has been a flood of opposition to the EVMs by political parties.
….India’s experience with electronic voting is similar to the US and Western Europe. Electronic voting systems have come to be criticised in a number of countries for not meeting minimal standards of system integrity, transparency and verifiability, and for not allowing a fair recount in case of disputes.
Germany discarded it after its Federal Constitutional Court held electronic voting as unconstitutional in March 2009. Holland and Ireland too have abandoned EVMs following widespread concerns.
…Today, reliability of electronic voting machines is a subject of intense political debate and media scrutiny across the world. The New York Times in an editorial titled, “How to Trust Electronic Voting” said, “Electronic voting machines that do not produce a paper record of every vote cast cannot be trusted… There is no way to be sure that a glitch or intentional vote theft — by malicious software or computer hacking — did not change the outcome. Few issues matter as much as ensuring that election results can be trusted.” (June 21, 2009).
Indian EVMs do not meet the standards followed by mature western democracies. Yet, the ECI maintains the ludicrous refrain that it has foolproof arrangements to prevent fraud and that its EVMs are ‘perfect’ and ‘tamper-proof.’
……There are serious concerns regarding safety of Indian EVMs as they are typically stored in taluka warehouses under the charge of supervisory level officers. One should be naïve (as the ECI expects us to be), to assume that these lowly officials cannot be influenced or compromised to gain momentary access to the voting machines at any time in their life cycle. Just look around to see the scale of fraud that goes on in every sphere of life. If political bosses can perpetrate fraud in the Indian Premier League, would they not be tempted to commit electoral fraud?
If you like conspiracy theories, let me mention a more frightening prospect. If the public sector EVM manufacturers and their employees are compromised, they can insert a Trojan to manipulate election results at will. There is no safeguard in the current electronic voting system against fraud perpetrated with the complicity of manufacturers, their authorised technicians or local officials.
The ECI seems to have abiding faith in not only the PSU manufacturers but also in two multinational companies (MNCS), Microchip of the US and Renesas of Japan. These companies have been given “top secret” EVM software that has not been shared with even the expert committee of the ECI, which comprises three professors from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi. Apparently, the expert committee is considered to be a threat but not the MNCs. Sounds strange indeed!
Ominously, the EVM manufacturers do not even know whether the microchips returned to them (after the software is loaded) contain the original software, which they have supplied, or a tampered code. This is because the microchips are ‘masked’ and do not have a facility to read back the contents. What was the great idea in engaging MNCS and their vendors and suppliers in India in a critical activity? Who authorised the supply of software to MNCS?
If somebody were to perpetrate fraud……, there is no way to establish it….(as) there is no physical record of votes cast. Thus, in case of doubt, a genuine recount or audit is not possible. The current Indian EVMs offer a huge opportunity and incentive to perpetrate undetectable election fraud.
It is principally for this reason that paperless electronic voting is being rejected the world over. India should follow suit by either abandoning EVMs altogether or by introducing safeguards that make the election process transparent, verifiable and auditable.
For the full article, visit the following link:
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