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Who says Indian EVMs are failsafe? (PART 1) EVMs frustrated Tamil Nadu voters

In the U.K general elections, voters experienced problems with shortage of paper ballots at many places. In the presidential elections in Philippines held yesterday, voters had serious problems with the troubled nationwide electronic voting (called the Automated Election System or AES) experience.

Whenever such problems were highlighted in the international media, the Election Commission of India and its admirers in the media bragged about its unrivalled achievements in ‘successful’ nationwide electronic voting experience. Until the vulnerabilities of the electronic voting machines (EVMs) were exposed by Indian and international experts, everybody believed that the EVMs are the best thing that ever happened to the Indian democracy.

The case of Tamil Nadu in 2009 general elections perhaps qualifies as one of the worst ever elections conducted using electronic voting machines. Voters in hundreds of polling stations across Tamil Nadu experienced serious problems on the polling day, May 13, 2009 due to malfunctioning electronic voting machines.   

In several polling stations, voting machines were replaced midway during polling. In many others, voters’ complaints were ignored and the polling was held even when the problem persisted.

Types of EVM related problems

The most common problems faced by the voters and the exact details of polling stations where such problems occurred are as follows:

  • When the voters pressed the button to vote for one party, the light flashed on another. (Permabalur parliamentary constituency (Manachanallur), Villupuram P.C (Keezhappalayam, Namachivapuram, Melur, Thagamtheerthapuram, Karunguzhi), Coimbatore P.C (polling station nos. 49 in the city, 13 and 14 in Singanallur assembly), Pollachi P.C (polling station no. 107) 
  • Light did not flash after vote was ‘cast’ in the EVM (Perambalur P.C (Veppanthattai), Thanjavur P.C (Booth No.162 in Mannargudi assembly) 
  • EVM did not produce beep sound raising suspicions (Mayiladuthurai P.C (Tandamthottam, Tirunarayur) 
  • Buttons got stuck and did not function (Mayiladuthurai P.C (Vilandakandam Panchayat, Cholanmaligai) Papanasam P.C (Ayyampetai, Ammapetai), Thanjavur (Senthalai, Nagathi) 
  • EVM gave continuous non-stop beep (Kumbakonam P.C (Tirunallur) 
  • The voting machine did not make beep sound after casting the vote (Mayiladuthurai P.C (Darasuram, Kumbakonam polling station no. 99, Papanasam P.C (Keelakovil-158, Vlayapetai-179, Tiruvalanchuli-180, Sundaraperumalkovil-183), Coimbatore P.C (Coimbatore North assembly-polling station nos. 43, 47) 
  • Multiple beeps were produced by the EVMs, but ignored by officials (Coimbatore P.C (Singanallur assembly– polling station nos. 38, 165, 52, 150, 2, 13, 29, Coimbatore North assembly-polling station nos. 3,1) and Pollachi P.C (PS No. 92) 

 The above list is only illustrative and not exhaustive. An exhaustive compilation would show the exact scale of such failures.

Need for Post-poll Audit

 One does not know whether these problems are only technical glitches or a result of election fraud perpetrated (or attempted) by criminals on unsuspecting voters and poll contestants. Because there has been no effort on the part of the Election Commission to ascertain the reasons, the truth will never be known.

Post election audit could have helped to ascertain reasons for large scale EVM failue in Tamil Nadu. Post election audit refers to an in-depth examination of the accuracy of the voting process as a whole. With proper record keeping, an audit can facilitate a step-by-step examination of how a voting machine recorded ballots and computed vote totals to determine whether it performed accurately or not. An audit can examine any aspect of the election process that can be measured or recorded.

The Election Commission of India has not conducted any such audit or review till date in the past 11 years since large scale use of EVMs began because it believes that the the Indian EVMs are “reliable, failsafe, tamper proof and perfect”.

Let alone a post poll audit, it appears that the Election Commission does not even have a proper record of how many voting machines have been found defective and how many were replaced due to problems in the field. Or, it does not share such information.

I have a piece of advice for the the desi admirers of our electronic voting system. Let us first reform our own voting system and fix our problems before embarking on an audacious journey of teaching others about our ‘best practices.”

I can be reached at nrao@indianEVM.com

This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 11th, 2010 at 5:20 AM and is filed under EVM PROBLEMS. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

2 Responses to “Who says Indian EVMs are failsafe? (PART 1) EVMs frustrated Tamil Nadu voters”

  1. Tweets that mention GVLN Rao Blog » Blog Archive » Who says Indian EVMs are failsafe? (PART 1) EVMs frustrated Tamil Nadu voters -- Topsy.com Says:

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Hari.K.Prasad Vemuru. Hari.K.Prasad Vemuru said: GVLN blog @ http://bit.ly/dBURE0 shows d EVM problems in last elections @ Tamilnadu, A clear symptom of hacking attempt, shud call for audit [...]

  2. R. Viswanathan Says:

    That Congress is smug amd complacen about elections is vident. They let nothing bother their composure , be it terroris, price rise, corruption… With elections in TN due soon, something has to be quickly done about the EVMs. Can’t Jayalalitha and Vijayakanth pitch in too and help.