Understanding the Controversy of Electronic Voting Machines - Seeker's Thoughts

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Friday, 1 February 2019

Understanding the Controversy of Electronic Voting Machines


EVM Controversy in India- EVMs or electronic voting machines provides the voter with a button for each choice which is connected by a cable to an electronic ballot box. In an attempt to amplify their pitch against the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), the Opposition parties are set to send a joint memorandum to the Election Commission demanding that the machines should be replaced at the earliest with ballot paper.



The parties, in a draft memorandum circulated among the signatories, demanded that a physical counter check of the paper trail and matching it with electronic vote should happen mandatorily in at least 50% of all EVMs.

It is an implement able reform without any additional cost, they argued.

They also demanded that in case the difference of votes cast in favour of the winning candidates and the one coming second is less than five %, then there should be mandatory counting of the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) in every polling station of that constituency.



An EVM consists of two units–control unit and balloting unit–and these two are connected by a five-meter cable. When a voter presses a button against the candidate, he/she wishes to vote for, the machine locks itself. This EVM can be opened only with a new ballot number. This way, EVMs ensure that one person gets to vote only once.



When were EVMs first used in elections?

The use of EVM started back in 1982 Kerala Assembly elections. Prior to this only ballot papers and ballot boxes were allowed.



Why EVM are in controversy? 

The only way an EVM can be tampered with is by physically opening it up and replacing the chipset inside it. The chipset used is non-reprogrammable and data is ‘burnt’ into the device. So, today it is possible to replace the chip if we have access to EVMs.

 On the VVPAT (voter verifiable paper audit trail) front too, there are reports of malfunctioning. Also, as per the rules, paper ballots and VVPAT machines are not counted until the Returning Officer asks for it.



Why is India using EVMs?

Using EVMs means doing away with paper ballots, and in turn, saving millions of trees from being cut.

It makes the entire process of voting simpler-a click on the button and your vote is registered. EVMs, in the long-run, have turned out to be cost-effective as well. These machines don’t require electricity and run on batteries. At the same time, the EVMs are lighter and portable compared to the huge ballot boxes.

And most importantly, EVMs have made the vote-counting process much faster, delivering results in hours as against manual counting of votes which could take days.



Why to support EVM?

EVMs led to a significant decline in electoral fraud, particularly in politically sensitive States as rigging elections became extremely expensive.

Research has shown a link between luminosity and growth rate, suggesting that EVMs contribute to development.

 EVMs empowered those from the weaker sections of society who were victims of political or electoral violence. In particular, women, lower castes, and those less educated were more likely to participate in the electoral process when EVMs were used.

EVMs made the electoral process more competitive.

 There has been a significant decline in the incidence of re-election, and winning margins have reduced dramatically. Less time-consuming process happens.



Arguments that are in favour of Paper Ballot

Invariably come across reports of malfunctioning EVMs. Reliability of EVM lead to the trust issue where people want the previous system to be worked.  



Disadvantage and Issues related to there are problems of paper ballot.

o   Transporting them and guarding them is a problem.

o   Ballot boxes can be captured.

o   Ghost voters who did not exist voted for the parties.

o   Credibility as election frauds

o   Time consuming



Truth behind tempering

Indian EVM’s do not have electricity, or internet connectivity. The only thing which it has a chip, which is produced in a government own PSU.EVM can be tempered only when it is opened and replace the chip.

CHIPS can be replaced BUT ONLY IN LAB. However, the truth is that EVM chip can’t be replaced just like that as per election commissioner’s statement.



Conclusion- Election commission finds it hard to maintain credibility, as controversy does not seem to die. Election commission even kept an open challenge but none came in front to temper with it. VVPAT should be installed, or more awareness campaign should be promoted by government.