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Even if EVMs can be EASILY hacked (they can’t!), no case has been made to challenge their integrity

There was a debate re: EVMs on my FB page yesterday. I’ve outlined a few key issues here already (do read the entire post and my FB comments before reading the rest of this post).

I’m now putting out a more complete (but not comprehensive) rebuttal of the idea that India’s EVM process is flawed.

The ECI has stated in its March 2017 press release: “The ECI  unequivocally reiterates that given effective technical and administrative safeguards, EVMs are not tamperable and the integrity of electoral process is preserved.” I agree with the ECI. 

I have determined after a bit of examination many years ago that EVMs are an excellent tool to bring integrity into the electoral system of India. I continue to believe that is the case. The way mega-corrupt AAP is using this “issue” is beyond pathetic. Arvind Kejriwal is the pits – close to being the most unethical man in India (he competes with Modi).

MY KEY POINT IN PLAIN ENGLISH: THE PROBLEM HAS NOT BEEN DEMONSTRATED.

I know that ATMs can be hacked (if someone gets access to them, the $20 can be programmed to deliver $100 and vice versa).

I know that airplanes can be hacked. I know that my mobile phone can be hacked. I know that my computer can be readily hacked.

And yet none of this bothers me much.

Why?

Because there are PROCESSES in place (ranging from the simple to the most complicated) that prevent these machines from being hacked on a day to day basis.

There are SYSTEMS in place that ensure that ATMs aren’t going to be hacked.

[Addendum 14 May 2017: The EVM is a like a calculator. How can a calculator be hacked unless you physically take it apart and fiddle with it? And there is NO WAY an EVM can be physically accessed privately by anyone during the electoral process, which also includes significant randomisation of machines.]

THE OUTLINE OF THE SYSTEMS TO PROTECT EVM INTEGRITY

Why it is  almost impossible to rig Electronic Voting Machines

[From ECI’s March 2017 press release – also reproduced below in full]

— The machine is electronically protected to prevent any tampering/manipulation

— The program (software) used in these machines is burnt into a one-time programmable (OTP)/masked chip so that it cannot be altered or tampered with

— These machines are not networked either by wire or by wireless to any other machine or system. Therefore, there is no possibility of its data corruption

— The software of EVMs is developed in-house by a selected group of engineers in BEL (Defence Ministry PSU) and ECIL (Atomic Energy Ministry’s PSU) independently from each other

— A select software development group of 2-3 engineers designs the source code and this work is not sub-contracted

— After completion of software design, testing and evaluation of the software is carried out by an independent testing group as per the software requirements specifications (SRS). This ensures that the software has really been written as per the requirements laid down for its intended use only

— After successful completion of such evaluation, machine code of the source program code is given to the micro controller manufacturer for writing in the microcontrollers

— From this machine code, the source code cannot be read. Source code is never handed over to anyone outside the software group of PSUs

— The source code for the EVM is stored under controlled conditions at all times. Checks and balances are in place to ensure that it is accessible to authorised personnel only

— During production in the factory, functional testing is done by production group as per the laid down quality plan and performance test procedures

— The software is so designed that it allows a voter to cast the vote only once. The vote can be recorded by an elector from the ballot unit only after the presiding officer enables the ballot on the control unit

— The machine does not receive any signal from outside at any time. The next vote can be recorded only after the presiding officer enables the ballot on the control unit. In between, the machine becomes dead to any signal from outside (except from the control unit)

— Certain additional features were introduced in 2006 in ECI-EVMs such as dynamic coding between ballot unit (BU) and control unit (CU), installation of real time clock, installation of full display system and date and time stamping of every key-pressing in EVM

— Technical evaluation committee in 2006 has concluded that any tampering of CU by coded signals by wireless or outside or Bluetooth or Wi-Fi is ruled out as cu does not have high frequency receiver and data decoder

— CU accepts only specially encrypted and dynamically coded data from BU. Data from any outside source cannot be accepted by CU

– ECI- EVMs are stand alone machines. Therefore, they cannot be compared with machines of other countries.

– Most of the systems used in other countries are computer based with internet connectivity. Hence, they could be vulnerable to hacking

– The software in the ECI-EVM chip is one time programmable (OTP) and burnt into the chip at the time of manufacture. Nothing can be written on the chip after manufacture

FURTHER, READ AND UNDERSTAND THIS:

In order to understand EVM use, a person needs to fully understand these two documents:

  1. Chapter XII of the Returning Officers handbook (I’ve uploaded these documents on my server since URLs can change in the future) – also other references to EVMs across the manual.

2. Chapter V of the Presiding Officers handbook – also many other references across the document.

FULLY understand the steps through which EVMs are stored/ used. From the day EVMs are manufactured and delivered to ECI – these are stored in various places across the country – there are extensive processes in place regarding the security and use of these machines.

In order to decide which EVM will be allotted to which booth, first Lok Sabha area, then Vidhan Sabha area and finally, the booth is finalized. Polling party gets to know about the EVM it is getting at the time of dispatching only. [Source – read the full article]

NOT ONE step can be broken by any “hacker”. Every machine passes not only through a major drill in terms of security, but the moment it lands up for use in an election, the machine is fully tested before use.

WILL MACHINES NEVER MAL-FUNCTION?

They WILL. Some machines WILL go bad. In the case of EVMs, the memory could be bad, the chip could be bad, some other glitch could exist.

But in addition to links I posted on my previous post, also read this: EVM is Tamper-Proof, Political Noise Shouldn’t Shake Public Faith.

WHY ARE EVMs AS FOOL-PROOF AS YOU CAN HUMANLY GET?

Some machines do malfunction, and will malfunction. It is impossible to get a situation where no machine will ever malfunction. So sometimes one gets reports in the media of EVMs that “vote” only for one candidate. However, such machines are quickly identified through the process and removed from circulation.

Also it is possible that some machines WILL malfunction even after they have been agreed for use. These are machines.

Such malfunction does not amount to systemic or endemic “hacking”.

I AGREE WITH ECI REGARDING KEEPING JUDICIAL INVOLVEMENT AWAY FROM THE PROCESS OF CONDUCT OF ELECTIONS

I fully support ECI’s views regarding its COMPLETE and overwhelming constitutional mandate to conduct elections, without any judicial oversight. The judiciary gets involved only in very specific instances, but the conduct of elections is not one of them.

WHAT MY BATCHMATES ARE SAYING 

SENIOR IAS OFFICER 1

While individual EVM’s can always be tampered with, as we have gone in for these stand alone systems, it is impossible to tamper with all the machines and ensure any particular symbol’s victory. The losers don’t like to admit their defeat. As officers in charge of elections for several decades, we have seen the great improvement in the conduct and declaration of results in elections. Going back to paper votes is like saying that since cars lead to accidents, we must all ride only bullock carts.

SENIOR IAS OFFICER 2

Hacking of anything is possible. But question is whether the entire process, including many types of human supervision, including the eci, election machinery, polling agents, parties can be taken for a total ride. There is no evidence yet that it can be done uncaught, there is no court case, only innuendos.

If there is civil pressure on the ECI it is alright and welcome. It eci performs not because of the quality of the ECs, which is pedestrian, but on account of the public and political gaze and scrutiny.

SENIOR IAS OFFICER 3

I have participated in more than 15 elections as returning officer or presiding officer or observer and I feel the allegations of manipulation in EVM are ridiculous. Elections are primarily conducted by state governments and by state governments officials and central government has little role. The fact that incumbent state party loses elections will itself prove that elections in India are more or less fair. Before polling starts there’s a mock poll of in front of all polling agents to demonstrate that EVM works as per buttons pressed. Even before sending EVMs the returning officer checks whether EVMs are working properly. I feel criticism is unfair.

SENIOR IAS OFFICER 4

ECI made an open offer to demonstrate how the EVM can be hacked. If the political parties are convinced  that they can be hacked, why don’t they take up on this offer?

SENIOR IAS OFFICER 5

On available evidence the grounds for questioning the EVM usage are specious. There are sufficient safeguards and the opposition parties are being extremely irresponsible.

SENIOR IAS OFFICER 6

What about the mock poll conducted prior to the actual poll, in every booth of every poll ? If it is assumed that the software in EVMs could be compromised, the mock poll results should also get massaged. And, the party interested would have to tamper with the software in each one of the tens of thousands of EVMs in a state, besides managing the mock poll.

Impossible, I would say !! And the paper ballot method has been notorious for booth capturing, doubtful calls in counting of votes, etc. Hasn’t Bush Jr won his second Presidency through partisan decision on paper ballots?

MY CONCLUSION

(1) Small scale rigging (very small scale) IS possible – but very very difficult. Almost 0 per cent chance.

(2) Malfunctions can happen (e.g. some machines may not work properly – but such machines WILL be weeded out by the process)

(3) ECI is extraordinarily honest – that I can vouch for personally given my extensive contact with the organisation.

(4) Elections are conducted by a vast range of officials each with different views (and capabilities). It is close to impossible for ALL officials in a particular constituency to be aligned perfectly.

(5) The macro results are entirely clear: they mimic the polls, rather than any “rigging”. Despite Modi’s control over the national government, AAP got 67 out of 70 seats in Delhi. Despite Modi’s control over the national government, SAD/BJP LOST the Panjab elections. Despite Akhilesh Yadav’s control over the state government in UP, he LOST the recent UP elections. There is not the slightest iota of evidence to suggest vote rigging.

THE CASE FOR ANY ADDITIONAL FOCUS ON EVMs HAS NOT BEEN MADE. ALL ALLEGATIONS ARE PURELY BASED ON (A) POLITICS AND (B) IGNORANCE.

Q.E.D. 

FAQ on EVMs – FROM ECI’s website

Q1. What is an Electronic Voting machine? In what way its functioning is different from the conventional system of voting?

Ans. An Electronic Voting Machine consists of two Units – a Control Unit and a Balloting Unit – joined by a five-meter cable. The Control Unit is with the Presiding Officer or a Polling Officer and the Balloting Unit is placed inside the voting compartment. Instead of issuing a ballot paper, the Polling Officer in-charge of the Control Unit will press the Ballot Button. This will enable the voter to cast his vote by pressing the blue button on the Balloting Unit against the candidate and symbol of his choice.

Q2. When was the EVM first introduced in elections?

Ans. EVMs manufactured in 1989-90 were used on experimental basis for the first time in 16 Assembly Constituencies in the States of Madhya Pradesh (5), Rajasthan (5) and NCT of Delhi (6) at the General Elections to the respective Legislative Assemblies held in November, 1998.

Q3. How can EVMs be used in areas where there is no electricity?

Ans. EVMs run on an ordinary 6 volt alkaline battery manufactured by Bharat Electronics Ltd., Bangalore and Electronic Corporation of India Ltd., Hyderabad. Therefore, even in areas with no power connections, EVMs can be used.

Q4. What is the maximum number of votes which can be cast in EVMs?

Ans. EVMs can record a maximum of 3840 votes. As normally the total number of electors in a polling station will not exceed 1500, the capacity of EVMs is more than sufficient.

Q5. What is the maximum number of candidates which EVMs can cater to?

Ans. EVMs can cater to a maximum of 64 candidates. There is provision for 16 candidates in a Balloting Unit. If the total number of candidates exceeds 16, a second Balloting Unit can be linked parallel to the first Balloting Unit. Similarly, if the total number of candidates exceeds 32, a third Balloting Unit can be attached and if the total number of candidates exceeds 48, a fourth Balloting Unit can be attached to cater to a maximum of 64 candidates.

Q6. What will happen if the number of contesting candidates in a constituency goes beyond 64?

Ans. In case the number of contesting candidates goes beyond 64 in any constituency, EVMs cannot be used in such a constituency. The conventional method of voting by means of ballot box and ballot paper will have to be adopted in such a constituency.

Q7. What will happen if the EVM in a particular polling station goes out of order?

Ans. An Officer is put on duty to cover about 10 polling stations on the day of poll. He will be carrying spare EVMs and the out-of-order EVM can be replaced with a new one. The votes recorded until the stage when the EVM went out of order will be safe in the memory of the Control Unit and it will be sufficient to proceed with the polling after the EVM went out of order. It is not necessary to start the poll from the beginning.

Q8. Who has the devised the EVMs?

Ans. The EVMs have been devised and designed by Election Commission in collaboration with two Public Sector undertakings viz., Bharat Electronics Ltd., Bangalore and Electronic Corporation of India Ltd., Hyderabad after a series of meetings, test-checking of the prototypes and extensive field trials. The EVMs are now manufactured by the above two undertakings.

Q9. What is the cost of the machines? Is it not too expensive to use EVMs?

Ans. The cost per EVM (One Control Unit, one Balloting Unit and one battery) was Rs.5,500/- at the time the machines were purchased in 1989-90. Even though the initial investment is somewhat heavy, this is more than neutralised by the savings in the matter of printing of ballot papers in lakhs, their transportation, storage etc., and the substantial reduction in the counting staff and the remuneration paid to them.

Q10. In our country a sizeable section of the population being illiterate will it not cause problems for the illiterate voters?

Ans. In fact, voting by EVMs is simpler compared to the conventional system, where one has to put the voting mark on or near the symbol of the candidate of his choice, fold it first vertically and then horizontally and thereafter put it into the ballot box. In EVMs, the voter has to simply press the blue button against the candidate and symbol of his choice and the vote is recorded. Rural and illiterate people had no difficulty in recording their votes and, in fact they have welcomed the use of EVMs.

Q11. Can booth – capturing be prevented by the use of EVMs?

Ans. By booth-capturing, if one means, taking away or damaging of ballot boxes or ballot papers, this evil cannot be prevented by the use of EVMs as EVMs can also be forcibly taken away or damaged by miscreants. But if one looks at booth capturing as a case of miscreants intimidating the polling personnel and stamping the ballot papers on the symbol and escaping in a matter of minutes, this can be prevented by the use of EVMs. The EVMs are programmed in such a way that the machines will record only five votes in a minute. As recording of votes has necessarily to be through Control Unit and Balloting Unit, whatever be the number of miscreants they can record vote only at the rate of 5 per minute. In the case of ballot papers, the miscreants can distribute all the 1000 odd ballot papers assigned to a polling station, among themselves, stamp them, stuff them into the ballot boxes and run away before the police reinforcements reach. In half- an –hour, the miscreants can record only a maximum of 150 votes by which time, chances are the police reinforcement would have arrived. Further, the presiding Officer or one of the Polling Officers can always press the “close” button as soon as they see some intruders inside the polling station. It will not be possible to record any vote when once the ‘close’ button is pressed and this will frustrate the efforts of the booth-capturers.

Q12. Is it possible to use EVMs for simultaneous elections for Parliament and State Legislative Assembly?

Ans. Yes

It is possible to use EVMs for simultaneous elections for Parliament and State Legislative Assembly and the existing EVMs have been designed keeping this requirement in view.

Q13. What are the advantages in using EVMs?

Ans. The most important advantage is that the printing of millions of ballot papers can be dispensed with, as only one ballot paper is required for fixing on the Balloting Unit at each polling station instead of one ballot paper for each individual elector. This results in huge savings by way of cost of paper, printing, transportation, storage and distribution. Secondly, counting is very quick and the result can be declared within 2 to 3 hours as compared to 30-40 hours, on an average, under the conventional system. Thirdly, there are no invalid votes under the system of voting under EVMs. The importance of this will be better appreciated, if it is remembered that in every General Election, the number of invalid votes is more than the winning margin between the winning candidate and the second candidate, in a number of constituencies. To this extent, the choice of the electorate will be more correctly reflected when EVMs are used.

Q14. Does the use of EVMs slow down the pace of poll?

Ans. No

In fact the pace of poll is quickened by the use of EVMs as it is not necessary for the voter to first unfold the ballot paper, mark his preference, fold it again, go to the place where the ballot box is kept and drop it in the box. What he has to do under the system of EVMs is simply to press the button near the candidate and symbol of his choice.

Q15. With ballot boxes counting is done after mixing the ballot papers. Is it possible to adopt this system when EVMs are used?

Ans. The normal rule is to count the votes polling station-wise and this is what is being done when EVM is used in each polling station. The mixing system of counting is done only in those constituencies specially notified by the Election Commission. Even in such cases, the result from each EVM can be fed into a Master Counting Machine in which case, only the total result of an Assembly Constituency will be known and not the result in each individual polling station.

Q16. How long the Control Unit stores the result in its memory?

Ans. The Control Unit can store the result in its memory for 10 years and even more.

 

Q17. Wherever an election petition is filed, the result of the election is subject to the final outcome. The courts, in appropriate cases, may order a recount of votes. Whether EVMs can be stored for such a long time and whether the result can be taken in the presence of the officers authorised by Courts? Will not the battery leak or otherwise damage EVMs?

Ans. The battery is required only to activate the EVMs at the time of polling and counting. As soon as the polling is over, the battery can be switched off and this will be required to be switched on only at the time of counting. The battery can be removed as soon as the result is taken and can be kept separately. Therefore, there is no question of battery leaking or otherwise damaging EVMs. Even when the battery is removed the memory in the microchip remains intact. If the Court orders a recount, the Control Unit can be reactivated by fixing the battery and it will display the result stored in the memory.

Q18. Is it possible to vote more than once by pressing the button again and again?

Ans. No

As soon as a particular button on the Balloting Unit is pressed, the vote is recorded for that particular candidate and the machine gets locked. Even if one presses that button further or any other button, no further vote will be recorded. This way the EVMs ensure the principle of “one man, one vote”.

Q19. How can a voter be sure that the EVM is working and his vote has been recorded?

Ans. As soon as the voter presses the `blue button’ against the candidate and symbol of his choice, a tiny lamp on the left side of the symbol glows red and simultaneously a long beep sound is heard. Thus, there is both audio and visual indications for the voter to be assured that his vote has been recorded.

Q20. Is it true that sometimes because of short-circuitry or other reason, a voter is likely to get an electric shock while pressing the `blue button ?

Ans. No

EVMs work on a 6-volt battery and there is absolutely no chance of any voter getting an electric shock at the time of pressing the `blue button’ or at any time of handling the balloting unit.

Q21. Is it possible to program the EVMs in such a way that initially, say upto 100 votes, votes will be recorded exactly in the same way as the `blue buttons’ are pressed, but thereafter, votes will be recorded only in favor of one particular candidate irrespective of whether the `blue button’ against that candidate or any other candidate is pressed?

Ans. The microchip used in EVMs is sealed at the time of import. It cannot be opened and any rewriting of program can be done by anyone without damaging the chip. There is, therefore, absolutely no chance of programming the EVMs in a particular way to select any particular candidate or political party.

Q22. Will it not be difficult to transport the EVMs to the polling stations?

Ans. No

Rather it will be easier to transport the EVMs compared to ballot boxes as EVMs are lighter, portable and come with polypropylene carrying cases.

Q23. In many areas of the country, there is no electricity connection and even in those places where there is electricity connection, power supply is erratic. In this scenario will it not create problem in storing the machines without air conditioning?

Ans. There is no need to air condition the room/hall where EVMs are stored. What is required is only to keep the room/hall free from dust dampness and rodents as in the case of ballot boxes.

Q24. In the conventional system, it will be possible to know the total number of votes polled at any particular point of time. In EVMs ‘Result’ portion is sealed and will be opened only at the time of counting. How can the total number of votes polled be known on the date of poll?

Ans. In addition to the ‘Result’ button, there is a ‘total’ button on EVMs. By pressing this button the total number of votes polled upto the time of pressing the button will be displayed without indicating the candidate-wise tally.

Q25. The Balloting Unit has provision for 16 candidates. In a constituency, there are only 10 candidates. The voter may press any of the buttons from 11 to 16. Will these votes not be wasted?

Ans. No

The panels for candidates Nos. 11 to 16 will be masked before use. Further, recording of votes for candidates 11 to 16 will also be blanked off electronically, as the candidates’ switch is set on 10. Therefore, there is no question of any voter pressing any of the buttons for candidates 11 to 16 or the votes for these candidates being recorded in the EVMs.

Q26. Ballot boxes are engraved so as to avoid any scope for complaint of replacement of these boxes. Is there any system of numbering EVMs?

Ans. Yes

Each Control Unit has a unique ID Number, which is painted on each unit with a permanent marker. This ID Number will be allowed to be noted by the Polling Agents and will also be recorded in a Register maintained for the purpose by the Returning Officer. The address tag attached to the Control Unit also will indicate this ID Number. Therefore, there is no question of replacement of any EVM.

Q27. Is there any provision for issue of tendered ballot papers when EVMs are used?

Ans. Yes

There is provision for issue of tendered ballot papers under the system of EVMs also. But, when such a situation arises, the voter concerned will be issued an ordinary ballot paper. After marking the ballot paper with the arrow cross mark rubber stamp supplied, the tendered ballot paper will be put inside a cover specially provided for the purpose, sealed and kept by the Presiding Officer.

Q28. In the conventional system, before the commencement of poll, the Presiding Officer shows to the polling agents present that the ballot box to be used in the polling station is empty. Is there any such provision to satisfy the polling agents that there are no hidden votes already recorded in the EVMs?

Ans. Yes

Before the commencement of poll, the Presiding Officer demonstrates to the polling agents present that there are no hidden votes already recorded in the machine by pressing the result button. Thereafter, he will conduct a mock poll by asking the polling agents to record their votes and will take the result to satisfy them that the result shown is strictly according to the choice recorded by them. Thereafter, the Presiding Officer will press the clear button to clear the result of the mock poll before commencing the actual poll.

Q29. How can one rule out the possibility of recording further votes at any time after close of the poll and before the commencement of counting by interested parties?

Ans. As soon as the last voter has voted, the Polling Officer in-charge of the Control Unit will press the ‘Close’ Button. Thereafter, the EVM will not accept any vote. Further, after the close of poll, the Balloting Unit is disconnected from the Control Unit and kept separately. Votes can be recorded only through the Balloting Unit. Again the Presiding officer, at the close of the poll, will hand over to each polling agent present an account of votes recorded. At the time of counting of votes, the total will be tallied with this account and if there is any discrepancy, this will be pointed out by the Counting Agents.

ECI’S MARCH 2017 PRESS RELEASE ON EVMs

Press Information Bureau
Government of India
Election Commission
16-March-2017 15:56 IST

Credibility of Electronic Voting Machines- regarding.

Press Note

 

  1. The Election Commission has observed that after declaration of result of the recently held General Elections to the State Legislative Assemblies of Goa, Manipur, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, some political parties have raised voice against the credibility of the ECI-EVMs, alleging tampering of EVMs during the said elections. One representation was received from National General Secretary, BSP without any specific allegation on 11.03.2017. ECI on 11.03.2017 itself has given detailed response to BSP rejecting the representation. ECI’s reply is available at www.eci.nic.in.
  2. Such concerns, about alleged tamperability of ECI-EVM have been raised earlier also since their introduction including before HC/SC. These allegations have been dismissed. ECI unequivocally reiterate that given effective technical and administrative safeguards, EVMs are not temperable and integrity of electoral process is preserved.
  3. It will be useful to once again recapture some facts on the subject for information of citizens and all concerned.
  4. Background of EVM

With a view to overcome certain problems associated with use of ballot papers and taking advantage of development of technology so that voters cast their votes correctly without any resultant ambiguity and removing the possibilities of invalid votes totally, the Commission in December, 1977 mooted the idea of EVM. The law was amended by the Parliament in December, 1988 and a new section 61A was inserted in the Representation of the People Act, 1951 empowering the Commission to use voting machines. The amended provision came into force w.e.f.  15thMarch, 1989.

Central Government appointed the Electoral Reforms Committee in January, 1990 consisting of representative of several recognized National and State Parties. The Electoral Reforms Committee further constituted a technical Expert Committee for the evaluation of the electronic voting machines.  The Committee came to conclusion that the electronic voting machine is a secure system.  The expert committee, therefore, unanimously recommended in April, 1990 the use of the electronic voting machines without further loss of time.

  1. Since 2000, EVMs have been used in 107 General Elections to State Legislative Assemblies and 3 General Elections to Lok Sabha held in 2004, 2009 & 2014.
  2. Judicial Pronouncements on use of EVMs-

The issue of possible tampering of EVM has been raised before various High Courts since 2001 as mentioned below:-

(a)    Madras High Court-2001

(b)   Delhi High Court-2004

(c)    Karnataka High Court- 2004

(d)   Kerala High Court-2002

(e)    Bombay High Court (Nagpur Bench)-2004

All the above High Courts after going into all aspects of the technological soundness and the administrative measures involved in the use of EVMs at elections in India, have held that the EVMs in India are credible, reliable and totally tamperproof.  In some of these cases, even Supreme Court has dismissed appeals filed by some petitioners against High Court orders.

The Hon’ble Karnataka High Court held that “This invention is undoubtedly a great achievement in the electronic and computer technology and a national pride”.   Both the Karnataka High Court and the Madras High Court observed that use of EVMs in election has several advantages over the system of ballot paper/ballot box election. The Hon’ble Madras High Court also categorically ruled out any question of tampering of the EVMs.  The following observations made by the Madras High Court may be taken note of.

“There is also no question of introducing any virus or bugs for the reason that the EVMs cannot be compared to personal computers.  The programming in computers, as suggested, has no bearing with the EVMs.  The computer would have inherent limitations having connections through Internet and by their very design, they may allow the alteration of the programme but the EVMs are independent units and the programme in EVM is entirely a different system.”

In one of the cases, the Hon’ble High Court of Kerala in its order dated 6.2.2002 had recorded its appreciation on the efficiency of the mechanism.  The judgment of the Kerala High Court in the said Election Petition was upheld by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Civil Appeal (AIR 2003 SC 2271).

It is admitted before various courts that the data or technique brought in use in EVM in India were not subject to piracy as nobody knows anything about the contents of any type or has any unauthorized or free access to EVM.

Thereafter, the controversy was raised by political parties again after 2009 General Elections to House of People stating that EVMs were not fool proof and provide scope for manipulation. However, no specific allegation was raised nor could they prove before any court of law.

Some activists approached Supreme Court in 2009 which advised them to go to ECI. It was then these activists opened dialogue and ECI threw open challenge to anyone to demonstrate how machine owned by ECI can be tempered. However, in spite of opportunities given by ECI, machines opened and internal components shown, no one could demonstrate any tempering with the machine in ECI HQ. There proceedings were videographed.

In an extraordinary measure, the Commission invited those who had expressed reservations about the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) to come and demonstrate the points made in their allegations from 3rd to 8th August 2009. Those invited included political parties, petitioners before various courts and some individuals who had been writing to the Commission on this issue. One hundred EVMs brought from ten states namely, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh, were kept at the Commission’s office in readiness for scrutiny and for any application to establish its alleged fallibility. The EVMs were offered for such demonstration in the presence of a technical experts group as well as engineers representing the EVM manufacturers, BEL and ECIL. The outcome of this exercise is that none of the persons, who were given the opportunity, could actually demonstrate any tamper ability of the ECI-EVMs. They either failed or chose not to demonstrate.

Some activists then showed on TV channel a ‘machine’ which they claimed can be manipulated. ECI countered allegation that the ‘machine’ was stolen from EVM warehouse in Mumbai, subjected to changes by activists and thus it was no longer the ‘machine’ used by ECI.

In 2010, all political parties except a few from Assam and Tamil Nadu in a meeting convened by ECI expressed satisfaction about the functioning of EVMs. At this stage, idea of VVPAT was moved for further exploration.

In 2009, in a case before Delhi High Court, all earlier allegations about EVM temperabilities were raised. However, Delhi High Court satisfied with detailed reply of ECI why EVM cannot be rigged and about ECI efforts on developing VVPAT decided and disposed of the case in 2012 that VVPAT may be developed early in consultation with political parties.

  1. Technical Security of EVMs used by ECI

(a)                The machine is electronically protected to prevent any tampering/manipulation. The programme (software) used in these machines is burnt into a One Time Programmable (OTP)/Masked chip so that it cannot be altered or tampered with. Further these machines are not networked either by wire or by wireless to any other machine or system. Therefore, there is no possibility of its data corruption.

(b)               The software of EVMs is developed in-house by a selected group of Engineers in BEL (Defense Ministry PSU) and ECIL (Atomic Energy Ministry’s PSU) independently from each other. A select software development group of 2-3 engineers designs the source code and this work is not sub-contracted.

(c)                After completion of software design, testing and evaluation of the software is carried out by an independent testing group as per the software requirements specifications (SRS). This ensures that the software has really been written as per the requirements laid down for its intended use only.

(d)               After successful completion of such evaluation, machine code of the source programme code is given to the micro controller manufacturer for writing in the micro controllers. From this machine code, the source code cannot be read. Source code is never handed over to anyone outside the software group of PSUs.

(e)                Micro controller manufacturer initially provides engineering samples to PSUs for evaluation. These samples are assembled into the EVM, evaluated and verified for functionality at great length. Bulk production clearance by PSU is given to micro controller manufacturer only after successful completion of this verification.

(f)                The source code for the EVM is stored under controlled conditions at all times. Checks and balances are in place to ensure that it is accessible to authorized personnel only.

(g)                During production in the factory, functional testing is done by production group as per the laid down Quality plan and performance test procedures.

(h)               The software is so designed that it allows a voter to cast the vote only once. The vote can be recorded by an elector from the ballot unit only after the Presiding Officer enables the ballot on the Control Unit. The machine does not receive any signal from outside at any time. The next vote can be recorded only after the Presiding Officer enables the ballot on the Control Unit. In between, the machine becomes dead to any signal from outside (except from the Control Unit).

(i)                 Samples of EVMs from production batches are regularly checked for functionality by Quality Assurance Group, which is an independent unit within the PSUs.

(j)                 Certain additional features were introduced in 2006 in ECI-EVMs such as dynamic coding between Ballot Unit (BU) and Control Unit (CU), installation of real time clock, installation of full display system and date and time stamping of every key-pressing in EVM.

(k)               Technical Evaluation Committee in 2006 has concluded that any tempering of CU by coded signals by wireless or outside or Bluetooth or WiFi is ruled out as CU does not have high frequency receiver and data decoder. CU accepts only specially encrypted and dynamically coded data from BU. Data from any outside source cannot be accepted by CU.

  1. Uniqueness of ECI-EVMs

Some political parties have stated that some foreign countries have stopped using EVMs. The Commission has come across comparisons between          ECI-EVM and EVMs used by foreign countries. Such comparisons are both misplaced and misguided. ECI EVMs are Stand alone Machine. Therefore ECI-EVMs cannot be compared with machines of other countries.

(a)    Most of the systems used in other countries are Computer based with internet connectivity. Hence, these could be vulnerable to hacking.

(b)    As stated above, the software in the ECI-EVM chip is one time programmable (OTP) and burnt into the chip at the time of manufacture. Nothing can be written on the chip after manufacture. Thus the ECI-EVMs are fundamentally different from the voting machines and processes adopted in various foreign countries.

(c)    Any surmise based on foreign studies or operating system based EVMs used elsewhere would be completely erroneous. The ECI-EVMs cannot be compared with those EVMs.

  1. Procedural and Administrative Securities

The Commission has put in place an elaborate administrative system of security measures and procedural checks-and-balances aimed at prevention of any possible misuse or procedural lapses. These safeguards are implemented by ECI transparently with the active and documented involvement of political parties, candidates and their representatives at every stage to build their confidence on efficacy and reliability of EVMs. These safeguards are:

(a)               Before every election, a first level checking (FLC) is done for every EVM to be used in the election by the engineers of the manufacturers in the presence of political parties’ representatives. Any malfunctioning EVM is kept separately and is not used in the election.

(b)               Manufacturers certify at the time of FLC that all components in the EVM are original. After this, the plastic cabinet of Control Unit of the EVM is sealed using a “Pink Paper Seal”, which is signed by representatives of political parties and stored in strong rooms. After this stage, the plastic cabinet of control unit of the EVMs cannot be opened. There is no access to any component of inside of EVMs.

(c)                Additionally, at the time of FLC, at least 1000 votes are cast by the representatives of political parties on 5%of EVMs randomly selected by them. A printout of the results of this mock poll as well as a sequential print out of every vote polled during the mock poll at the time of First Level Checking of EVMs are taken out for at least 5% of EVMs and shown to the representatives of political parties.  Representatives of political parties are allowed to pick machines randomly for this purpose. In rest of the machines, numbers of votes polled during the mock poll are to the satisfaction of the representatives of political parties. Representatives of political parties are allowed to do mock poll themselves. It is all documented by DEOs/ROs.

(d)               Subsequently, stored EVMs are randomized by computer software twice once for allocation of machines to assembly constituencies and second to polling stations in the presence of candidates or their representatives before they are distributed for use in individual polling stations. Such lists of EVM containing serial number of EVM allocated to particular polling station are provided to the political parties/candidates.

(e)                Candidates and their representatives are allowed to conduct mock polls on EVMs at the time of candidate setting and also before the actual poll on the poll day to satisfy themselves about the satisfactory functioning of EVMs being used.

(f)                Once the candidate setting is done, the Ballot Unit of the EVM is also sealed with thread/Pink Paper seals so that nobody has access to the inside of the Ballot Unit too.  These Pink seals also bear signatures of representatives of political parties/candidate.

(g)               A printout of the results of mock poll as well as a sequential print out of every vote polled during the mock poll at the time of Preparation of EVMs and candidate setting are also taken out for at least 5% of EVMs and shown to the representatives of political parties.  Representatives of political parties are allowed to pick machines randomly for this purpose.

(h)               On the poll day, a mock poll by casting at least 50 votes is conducted at every polling station in the presence of the representatives of the candidates/polling agents with their signature and a mock-poll certificate to that effect is obtained from every Presiding Officer.

(i)                 After the mock poll is over, another thread seal and green paper seals are put on the EVM to block access to all buttons on the EVM, except those, which are used for the conduct of poll. These paper seals and thread seals are allowed to be signed by the polling agents. After the poll is over, the Presiding officer presses the “Close” button on the EVM in the presence of polling agents. Thereafter, no votes can be polled in the EVM.

(j)                 After this, the entire EVM is sealed. Candidates and their agents are allowed to put their signatures on the seals, which they can check for the intactness of the seal before counting. Candidates/representatives travel behind vehicles carrying EVMs from polling stations to counting storage rooms.

(k)               In addition to this, the strong rooms where EVMs are stored, for counting are also sealed and watched round the clock. The candidates and their representatives are allowed to put their own seals on the strong rooms. They are also allowed to keep a watch round the clock on the strong room. Security forces are deployed in multiple layers around storage rooms.

(l)                 The representatives of candidates of all political parties are given opportunity to participate in FLC, Preparation of EVMs before poll, mock poll, etc.

  1. VOTER VERIFIABLE PAPER AUDIT TRAIL (VVPAT)

ECI based on consultation with political parties in 2010 considered to explore use of Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) with a view to enhance transparency. Introduction of VVPAT implied that a paper slip is generated bearing name and symbol of the candidate along with recording of vote in Control Unit, so that in case of any dispute, paper slip could be counted to verify the result being shown on the EVM. Under VVPAT, a printer is attached to the balloting Unit and kept in the voting compartment. The paper slip remains visible on VVPAT for 07 seconds through a transparent window. Design of VVPAT made by BEL/ECIL was approved by ECI in 2013 and shown to persons who were pursuing matters in the Supreme Court. Rules were amended. ECI used VVPAT in Nagaland bye election in 2013 which proved great success. SC ordered introduction of  VVPAT in phases and asked Government to sanction funds for procurement.

In this regard in June 2014, the Commission proposed to implement VVPAT at every polling station in the next General Election to Lok Sabha due in 2019 and asked for fund of Rs. 3174 cr from the Government. Hon’ble Supreme Court also permitted the ECI to implement VVPATs in phase manner.

In an ongoing case in the Supreme Court, Commission in the month of March 2017,  has intimated the apex court that ECI will get requisite number of VVPATs  manufactured in 30 months time from the time of release of fund by the Government.

ECI procured 20,000 VVPATs in 2013 and has since used VVPATs in 143 Assembly Constituencies. Further, 33500 VVPATs were manufactured by BEL in 2016 for further use of VVPATs. So far, VVPATs have been used in 255 Assembly Constituencies and 09 Parliamentary Constituencies. In Goa elections in 2017, VVPAT was employed in all 40 LACs. ECI employed about 52,000 VVPATs in five States where elections were held recently. Since 2014, ECI has been relentlessly pursuing with the Govt. for sanction and release of funds of Rs. 3174 cr requisite number of VVPATs so that they could be used in all PCs in GE to Lok Sabha in 2019.

As explained above, the Commission has put in place an elaborate technical and administrative system of safeguards to ensure error-free functioning of EVMs in elections. The Commission is thus fully satisfied with the tamper proof functioning of the ECI-EVMs. It may be stated that such allegations and suspicions have not been raised for the first time. Even on earlier occasions, the Commission has offered opportunities more than once to those alleging the tamperability of EVM, no one has been able to demonstrate to the Commission that the EVM with ECI and used in the country’s election process, can be manipulated or tampered with. The Commission does not find any merit in such allegations and reject all such allegations and suspicions raised by some political parties.

ECI assures all citizens that EVM of ECI are temper proof and fully satisfied with the integrity of electoral process using EVM. ECI will further enhance confidence of citizens in ECI’s electoral process by deploying VVPAT in phase manner.

Further, ECI did not receive specific complaints or concrete material from political parties/candidates about alleged tempering of EVMs during recently held election process. At this stage, baseless, speculative and wild allegations are being made which deserves to be rejected.

However, if any specific allegation with material facts is presented to ECI, the same will be looked into with all seriousness on administrative sides.

The Election Commission would like to underline that it always had a firm conviction and complete satisfaction that EVMs could not be tampered with. Its faith on the machine has never wavered through the conduct of elections in the last many years including the nationwide general elections in 2004, 2009 and 2014. To date, no one has been able to actually demonstrate that EVMs used by the Election Commission can be tampered with or manipulated. What has been demonstrated or claimed to have been demonstrated is on a privately assembled “look-alike of ECI-EVMs” and not the actual ECI-EVM. However, the extraordinary measure of requiring demonstration in ECI HQ in 2009 was undertaken by the Election Commission in fulfilment of its responsibility not to allow even a small shade of doubt about any aspect of its operation and in order to set at rest any misgiving anywhere.

Today, the Commission once again completely reaffirms its faith in the infallibility of the EVMs. These are fully tamper-proof, as ever.

 

****

Election Commission of India

New Delhi,16 March, 2017

 

RM//RS

 

Sanjeev Sabhlok

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