BJP demands EVMs with paper audit trail, Election Commission dodges demand

L.K. Advani, chairman of the BJP parliamentary party and Nitin Gadkari, National President of the BJP have repeatedly asserted the need for a reform in the voting system and have in fact demanded that the system of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) with Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) should be implemented. The party remains firmly committed to this demand.

Reiterating this demand for introduction of EVMs with a paper back up to ensure transparency and to provide an audit trail, the BJP yesterday urged the Election Commission to convene an All-party meeting to discuss concerns of various parties regarding EVMs. In its response, the Commission said that an All-party meeting will be convened in the near future (?) but providing a paper back up (VVPAT) as demanded by the BJP would be difficult as there are likely to be lots of printer related problems.

The delegation was led by Ravi Shankar Prasad, chief spokesman and General Secretary of the BJP, while the Election Commission was represented by chief election commissioner S.Y. Quraishi, election commissioners V.S. Sampath and H.S. Brahma besides other senior officials. Kirit Somiaya, Secretary of the BJP who was instrumental in organizing the meeting questioned poor storage of the EVMs and highlighted the security loopholes that became evident in the arrest of Hari Prasad. Most political parties and candidates have developed doubts about EVMs and a paper back up is necessary to give confidence, he elaborated. Here is the link for the press note issued by the BJP after the meeting.


Accompanying the delegation due to my association with the EVM issue and the party, I told the Commission not to see this as a Congress party versus rest activity. The Congress party leaders in many states (Orissa, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Manipur etc.) have serious concerns about EVMs. Kirit supplemented saying there was a Congress party connection even in the missing EVM in the Hari Prasad arrest case.

Changes proposed in EVM security inadequate

The Election Commission, under pressure from all fronts, has issued fresh guidelines for the “first level” checking of the EVMs and believes that these additional security features will ensure that the EVMs cannot be tampered with.

The fresh guidelines can be seen at the following link:


While any improvements in EVM security are welcome, I am afraid the proposed steps outlined in the circular mentioned above are inadequate and cannot greatly enhance security. Further, they do not meet the fundamental requirements of transparency, verifiability and auditability of election results.

Let me cite an example. According to the new guidelines, all the EVMs will be thoroughly checked by “authorized” engineers in the presence of political party representatives. The control unit will be opened for the party representatives to check if everything was original and that there is no Bluetooth device etc. are not installed. (These checks are clearly inspired to counter the vulnerability demonstration attacks shown by Hari Prasad and team.)

I asked Dr. Alok Shukla, deputy election commissioner a simple question. How would an ordinary political party representative verify and certify that all the hardware and software inside the control unit are original or fake. I wonder if any of the commissioners would be able to do this. How then does the ECI expect the party representatives to counter-check and sign that the EVM is not tampered with.

Forget about political parties. Even the ECI is not in a position to check whether the software in the EVMs is original or not because it does not have access to the software. If the parties are not expected to check the software, what purpose does it serve? It is the software that drives all the functions of the EVMs and malicious software can manipulate results. So how can anyone certify that the EVM is fine without being aware of the authenticity of its software?

Mock poll print out is OK, but not for real poll

The ECI has made another change with regard to the functionality testing of the EVMs. While earlier mock polls consisted of polling only a few votes, now the parties will be allowed to poll as many as 1000 votes on 10% of the (randomly selected) voting machines and a rolling, continuous printout of these votes will be taken for parties to match and be sure that the machine is functioning alright.

The above procedure is laborious and would satisfy a layman but is not an adequate safeguard. Firstly, voting machines misbehave only when the Trojan is activated. In this case, Trojan (if the unverified software has malicious code already) can be activated after the elaborate mock poll and can even be pre-programmed (it is possible in the new EVMs) in a manner that it gets automatically activated at a particular date and time.

If the ECI is willing to take a print out of 1000 votes polled on at least 10% of the EVMs, why doesn’t it instead agree to a paper record of every vote cast in elections? Funnily, the ECI believes that the mock polls must be transparent and verifiable but is resisting the same for the actual polls? These are questions that are bound to be raised whenever the ECI organizes an All-party meeting.

The Chief Election Commissioner did not forget to mention the “international conspiracy” to discredit the perfectly functioning “India’s election process”. When these “conspiracy” related media reports appeared last week in the media a day after political parties demanded in Parliament that the government shall convene an All-party meeting on the EVMs, I asked a couple of top political bosses what they thought of the “international conspiracy” theory. They said this theory  is being mentioned  in the highest echelons of the government but  is “ridiculous” and “absurd”.

The more the Election Commission and the government highlight these conspiracy theories to hide behind uncomfortable questions, the more credibility loss they would suffer. Now that a political discourse has begun and all parties are seized of the issue, may I suggest that the Commission address these concerns properly to live up to its image as an independent and non-partisan election body?

I can be reached at nrao@indianEVM.com

This entry was posted on Saturday, September 4th, 2010 at 10:21 AM and is filed under EVM Vulnerabilities. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

7 Responses to “BJP demands EVMs with paper audit trail, Election Commission dodges demand”

  1. G.S.Nadadhur Says:

    why can’t you wait to see what the EC does in Bihar before pronouncing your verdict of ‘dodgy’? your prejudice and party affiliation shows.nadadhur GS

  2. senthil Says:

    Mr. Nadadhur.. its not about bihar election or any other election.. why cant you see the validity of the questions raised by Rao and others..

    Can you certify that all EVMs are safe and NOT hacked?

  3. G.S.Nadadhur Says:

    For your info, Mr. Senthil, if by hacking you mean breaking into the machine , then, since the EVM is not networked but stand alone , it is not possible.Acc to the 3 technologists themselves unless there is change of , or addition of components , the Indian EVM cannot be tampered with. Addition of components can be physically checked, can’t it be? Perhaps that is what the EC had indicated. so why not wait for them to do that in presence of party rep.s as they have said, instead of condeming them outright unless one has already made up one’s mind to oppose whatever EC says?

  4. pinku Says:

    There may be ways in which the EVM can be hacked but it has been not yet disclosed .ECI should make provisions such that I should be able to confirm my vote at a later date .

  5. Sanjay Says:

    Mr G S Nadhadur, the entire developed world have abandoned EVMs – will you claim they are all crooked for doing so? If everybody else refuses to drink muddy water, why are you insisting that Indians bravely do so?

    To me, it is your party affiliation which shows, when you want Indians to go against the flow, and drink the muddy water, by claiming that we should wait for an outbreak of illness before reaching a verdict.

    The principle of audit trail is well known around the world, and is not some new invention concocted to discredit the ruling govt in India. Audit trail is as old as democracy itself, and is integral to a free and fair system.

    Do Not Trust the Man Behind the Curtain.

  6. senthil Says:


    /** Acc to the 3 technologists themselves unless there is change of , or addition of components , the Indian EVM cannot be tampered with. Addition of components can be physically checked, can’t it be? Perhaps that is what the EC had indicated. so why not wait for them to do that in presence of party rep.s as they have said, instead of condeming them outright unless one has already made up one’s mind to oppose whatever EC says?

    You are seeing at the issue superficially.. pls see my blog on the entire process of an election, and where are the possibilities in which tampering can be done..

    This chart is prepared by Omesh Saigal, former IAS officer..

    The manufacturing of EVM chips is given to foreign companies.. The software is written by only 3 engineers, which the ECI themselves dont know as per the statement. The softwares may be written here, but burnt at a foreign country.

    When the ECI themselves dont know anything technically about the EVMs, its surprising that you are supporting and certifying that EVM cannot be hacked.. Please open up your mind, instead of blind defence..

    Given a EVM, can you certify that the EVM chip is as per the original guidelines, and that no secret components embedded in it?

    Given the EVM, can you prove the assembly code inside the CHIP are as per the originally developed version?

    I bet, you cannot.. even the manufacturer of the chips cannot do that.. because, in electronics, once a chip is fabricated and the software written, no one can check what is inside it..

    Please have some basic idea of electronics before venturing in to supporting EVM..

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