As the Election Commission of India has been non-responsive to the demand for a debate by various political parties and has resorted to falsification over the issue of EVMs, VeTA felt compelled to petition the President of India to suitably intervene on the EVM issue. This is the first of a series of such letters VeTA proposes to write to all premier institutions in the country to galvanise public opinion.
The text of my letter dated July 17 addressed to the President of India is reproduced below.
As a noted election analyst in the country and as the author of the lone publication on India’s electronic voting machines (EVMs) titled “Democracy at Risk! Can we trust our Electronic Voting Machines?,” I am writing to urge you to kindly intervene in a suitable manner at this juncture to protect the integrity of Indian elections being presently conducted through EVMs.
Even as the introduction of EVMs has brought efficiency into our election operations, a major shortcoming is that they function like “black boxes” as they store voting data only electronically. The election results cannot thus be verified as physical record of votes is not maintained in a paper form. As a result of these limitations, ordinary voters are unsure if their votes are properly recorded and counted. And, political parties and candidates are deeply concerned that the EVMs may be misused and manipulated to fix election results. Several instances of such manipulation and malfunctioning have been documented in my book, a copy of which is attached herewith for your kind perusal. Also enclosed are other relevant documents for your kind reference.
Most countries like Germany, Netherlands and Ireland have banned EVMs for these limitations after using them for many years. In the United States, most states have prescribed stringent conditions for their use like printing out a voter-verified paper record of all votes cast. All mature democracies of the world are adopting voting systems that are transparent, verifiable and auditable and are increasingly wary of electronic voting.
In the light of these international developments and the latest research evidence by national and international researchers which shows that Indian EVMs are vulnerable to election fraud (technical paper enclosed for reference), it is incumbent on us to honestly review our present voting system and to initiate necessary voting system related reform efforts.
A couple of months ago, 13 political parties comprising noted political leaders like Prakash Karat, A.B. Bardhan, Chandrababu Naidu, Jayalallthaa, Deve Gowda, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Lalu Prasad Yadav, Sharad Yadav, Om Prakash Choutala among others have submitted a joint memorandum to the ECI expressing their concerns over the use of EVMs and requested that an All-party meeting be called to discuss the issue of EVMs. The ECI has not responded to this request so far and is unwilling to call for an All-party meeting.
Various other parties like the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Shivsena, Janata Dal (United), Shiromani Akali Dal, Telangana Rastra Samithi (TRS), Trinamool Congress and Congress party in Karnataka and Orissa have also expressed fears over manipulation of EVMs. A large number of independent candidates (over 64 which is the limit for EVMs) have entered the fray only to prevent use of EVMs in Telangana bypolls due on July 27. These developments point towards deep rooted concerns and suspicions among various political leaders.
The Election Commission of India is the constitutional body vested with the responsibility to hold free and fair polls to state assemblies and parliament. The ECI has not responded to the concerns expressed by so many political parties and their supporters. I may mention here that this is not a partisan issue and a consensus is possible among all political parties over the issue.
It is very unfortunate and even ironical that the constitutional body is refusing to act in a democratic manner and is evading a discussion on a subject of such importance with key stakeholders including political leaders, technologists, NGOs etc.
In our system of representative democracy, elections provide the only occasion when the people directly exercise their sovereign power. Immediately thereafter this power is ceded to the elected representatives. If this sacred power is vitiated by a voting system of dubious integrity open to insidious fraud, it is evident that our democracy is seriously endangered.
As the custodian of the constitution, I sincerely hope that you would take necessary steps to protect this veritable threat to Indian democracy. Specifically, I would like to urge you to kindly intervene in this matter and advise the Election Commission of India (ECI) to take effective and urgent steps to engage all the stakeholders in a dialogue and address their concerns with regard to the EVMs.
I shall be deeply obliged if your office could keep me informed of the action taken in this regard and the feedback, if any received from the Election Commission.
With respectful regards,
G.V.L. NARASIMHA RAO
Citizens for Verifiability, Transparency & Accountability in Elections (VeTA)
Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil
Her Excellency the President of India
I can be reached at nrao@indianEVM.com