In the wake of several disturbing ground reports, many questions and concerns have been raised about the use of electronic voting machines in Indian elections by leaders of political parties, activists, analysts, administrators etc. etc. Election Commission of India and senior officials involved in the conduct of elections are either unaware of the unacceptable risks to the election integrity posed by these electronic voting machines or have chosen to ignore serious concerns concerning EVMs. On the contrary, they have been making atrocious and unsubstantiated claims that the Indian EVMs are “fully tamper proof”, “unriggable” and superior to EVMs banned in the West. Here in lies the grave danger to the India’s democracy.
There is insufficient appreciation among the general public of the facts and issues about this vital matter - largely due to the mystique concerning anything technological, and to the implicit faith in a constitutional body such as the Election Commission.
We are not opposed to use of technology per se
in elections. But it will be unwise to use technology without being aware of the attendant risks and without making provisions for adequate safeguards.
To safeguard Indian democracy, VeTA endorses the following resolution :
"Electronic voting machines are inherently subject to programming error, equipment malfunction, and malicious tampering. It is therefore crucial that voting machines provide a voter-verifiable audit trail, by which we mean a print out which would serve as the permanent record of each vote that can be checked for accuracy by the voter before the vote is submitted, and is difficult or impossible to alter after it has been checked. Electronic voting machines used in Indian elections at present do not meet this standard. Voting machines must be altered or upgraded to provide a voter-verifiable audit trail.
If the Election Commission of India is unable to enforce this requirement, it must return to paper ballots which the whole world considers to be the gold standard. Despite the several problems associated with the paper ballots, elections are transparent and manipulations are easily visible to all. On the contrary, the electronic voting system is opaque and manipulations, if any have no chance of being detected.”
The basis for the above resolution is elaborated below.
Use of electronic voting machines poses many unacceptable risks. In a large number of polling stations across the country, they have either malfunctioned or misbehaved leading to disruptions in the polling process and raising serious doubts about the working and reliability of the EVMs. Read more
While the Election Commission of India claims that the EVMs have helped curb booth capturing, the reality may be otherwise. There are fears, confirmed by some field reports and evidences that the electronic voting has ushered in a specialized breed of techies offering enterprising solutions to “fix” elections via the electronic voting machines.
The most dangerous thing about electronic rigging is that it would go undetected. This is a very sophisticated way of electronic booth capturing. Unlike in the traditional booth capturing, this is neither visible when it happens nor can it be established after elections.
Electronic voting machines used in Indian elections function as black boxes. Voters have no way to verify that their votes are recorded and counted properly. For this reason, use of voting machines that do not provide a voter-verifiable audit trail (print-out of every vote) must be stopped forthwith. In the new regime with voter verified paper ballots, electronic counts may be checked first for identifying winners. In the case of close contests or in the event of disputes, print-out ballots should serve as the authentic record of voting, taking precedence over electronic counts.
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