Ujjain: The recent Uttar Pradesh assembly and MCD (Municipal Corporation of Delhi) election earned the dubious reputation of being dominated by ‘Electronic frauds’ or tampering of electronic voting machines (EVMs). Several fingers were pointed and allegations made by major national political parties. Though it has not led the pack, the city of Ujjain too has had its share of allegations. It has been found that similar allegations of hacking of EVMs were also leveled during the Municipal Corporation (UMC) elections in 2015.
Senior Congress leader and former opposition leader at the UMC, Ravi Rai, in an exclusive interview to Free Press said that a racket of software engineers had been instrumental in tampering of EVMs. “People belonging to Bhopal had approached contestants in at least 7 to 8, out of 54, ward demanding Rs 8 lakh each for tampering an EVM. The money was handed over to them near a dhaba at Ashta,” Rai alleged disclosing that the racketeers sought Rs 16 lakh from him to tamper two EVMs of ward 25, where he lost the election by margin of 44 votes. Though, Rai did not pay a penny to anybody, he filed a petition (26/2015) before the court of the district and sessions judge. It is learnt that petitions of a similar nature were also filed by at least 4-5 election losers here.
EVMs were used for the first time in UMC elections and accordingly polling was conducted on August 12, 2015 simultaneously for the post of mayor and corporator. “But, neither the State Election Commission nor the district returning officer had provided information on using EVMs to contestants. There was no continuous power supply and no sound was heard after pressing the EVM button and our election agents present in the polling booths immediately complained about the irregularity to presiding officers, but to no avail,” Rai explained. According to him, he moved several applications as per the provisions of the Right to Information Act to Electronic Corporation of India Ltd, Hyderabad, to provide technical details of the EVMs sent to Ujjain and also about the software engineers involved in the racket. He is yet to get a response.
- EVM does not meet all the requirements of international standards and like all electronic equipments are open to hacking.
- In the present system of voting through EVMs, there is no such facility by which a voter can verify and confirm his own voting. At present, a voter presses a button only, but cannot ascertain the actual voting. He is not sure whether his vote is recorded or not; if recorded, whether it is recorded in favour of the person to whom it was intended or not; whether it is valid or invalid and counted or not.
- Pressing a button of choice and flashing of the red light is not actual voting in real sense unless the voter knows well that what has happened in consequence of pressing a button of his choice from the EVMs.
- EVMs are prone to in-constituencies and can be tampered both externally by hackers and internally by insiders. More advanced technology means more vulnerability and more prone to cyber hacking.
- Unlike the traditional ballot system where only the election officials were the “insiders”, EVM regime has spawned a long chain of insiders including the manufacturers of the EVMs, programmers, foreign companies fusing microchips abroad and their suppliers/vendors, maintenance engineers, local officials, etc. These players may have their own agendas and preferences.
- “Outsiders” are people who can manipulate the EVMs, away from the machines with gadgets whilst voting is in process.
“People belonging to Bhopal had approached contestants in at least seven to eight, out of 54 wards, demanding Rs 8 lakh each for tampering EVMs. The money was handed over to them near a dhaba at Ashta.”
– Ravi Rai, Senior Congress leader and former opposition leader in UMC
The apprehension that EVMs could be tampered with is baseless.
- The ECI has exercised due diligence to ensure that EVMs so used are “tamper proof”.
- EVM control units retain in memory each vote recorded elector-wise. The information stored in the memory of the control unit can be retrieved by using a device called the “decoder” which, when attached to the control unit of EVM, can print out the statement of voting data showing the order in which each voter has voted and to whom he has voted.
- As soon as a vote is recorded by a voter by pressing the candidate’s button on the ballot unit, a light glows against the name and symbol of the candidate, which the voter can see for himself/herself. This is a visual (electronic) assurance to the voter that the candidate for whom he has cast his vote has actually got that vote. The light goes off to protect the secrecy of voting.