Are The Results Of Elections Decided By Us Or Pre-Decided? – Demystifying EVMs

Demystifier: An ED Original where we take a complex topic but the content is written in such a way that it is knowledgeable and easy to comprehend at the same time.

All of us have been stirred by the debate on the authenticity of EVMS.

Arvind Kejriwal brought up the issue of alleged issue of tampering of EVMs after his party lost the Punjab elections where it had expected to perform much better than what the results were.

Similar concerns have been raised by Mayawati and several other prominent figures like Subramaniam Swamy in the past over the safety and misuse of EVMs.

Do our votes really count or are they a waste of time?

What is an EVM?

It is an easy to use an electronic device to record votes. EVMs has been in use in India since 1999 and was adopted across all polls from 2004.

How Does it Work?

They are made up of two machines, one is the control unit and the other is known as the balloting unit.  A presiding officer is under control of the control unit and once the vote is ready to be cast, he/she activates the balloting unit. The voter then presses a button to vote for their preferred candidate. The machine can record 64 different candidates at one point in time and 3,840 votes are the maximum number of votes that can be recorded on one machine.

In Spite of being Banned in Other Countries, Why is it Still Used Here?

It has been banned in developed countries like Netherlands and Germany which are much more technological advanced but is still used in India.

The EC has looked after this concern and said that in developed countries, they were used online and were exposed to hacking while EVMs used in India operate in such a way that removes this vulnerability.

What is a Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT)?

VVPAT is a printer-like machine attached to every EVM machine. When a voter casts his vote on EVM, it flashes the serial number, the name of the candidate and the party symbol for whom the concerned voter has voted.

The Supreme Court on October 8, 2013, on the basis of a PIL filed by Subramanian Swamy, directed the EC to introduce the VVPAT system in a phased manner so that it is used across the length and breadth of the country by 2019. It was done to ensure free and fair polls as it would help in verification.

ECI said that it was trying it’s level best for sanction and release of funds of Rs. 31,74 Crore from the government needed for the number of VVPATs so that they could be used in all polling booths for the 2019 elections.

How are EVMs Safeguarded?

Each and every EVM has an identity number fixed to it, which is duly recorded in the Election Commission’s database and this ID is cross-checked against the database when it is being transported to and from the election booths during elections under heavy security.

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As the EVMs are reusable, the old symbols of the previous election are changed and the number of votes is assigned to zero. Due to lapse in checking, this particular protocol wasn’t followed which led to the malfunctioning of the EVM at Bhind, Madhya Pradesh.

At Bhind, the VVPAT Machine being used for a demo for the  MP elections was seen as recording and printing only BJP votes irrespective of the party’s symbol being pressed due to the defect in the EVM.

Can EVMs be Doctored With?

A small chip with a Bluetooth connection can be inserted into an EVM which then can be tampered with the help of a mobile phone. But since inserting chips into so many EVMs isn’t possible, this possibility is ruled not.

Punching in a series of codes in an EVM could re-distribute votes to make a candidate win without raising an eyebrow. But this claim has been refuted since the software has been burnt into a One Time Programmable or Masked Chip so that it cannot be tampered with.

EC has also added features like real-time date and time stamping of every key pressed to increase the authentication.

Thus, it isn’t possible to change the result of an election. EVMS as a whole are trustworthy but VVPATs should also be used in all the polling booths as soon as possible to solve any disputes.

Image Credits: Google Images


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