Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy on Saturday demanded that an independent expert committee be appointed to find out how electronic voting machines could be safeguarded securely.

Talking to journalists after an international conference on ‘Electronic voting machines: How Trustworthy?,’ convened by the Centre for National Renaissance, New Delhi, he said several countries had banned the use of EVMs. The international consensus was that EVMs were a danger to democracy as they were not trustworthy. The Election Commission had not demonstrated that EVMs could never be rigged. If the Commission wanted to continue their use, it should give a printed receipt to every voter just as people used to get in automated teller machines after cash withdrawal. This receipt was a requirement under the Information Technology Act of 2000, which the Commission was “adamantly and obstinately” refusing to comply with.

He said renowned computer experts were ready to demonstrate that EVMs could be rigged, and stressed the need for an in-built safeguard.

Dr. Swamy said the next date of hearing of his public interest litigation petition on the use of EVMs in the Delhi High Court was scheduled for February 17. He would urge the court to appoint an expert committee to find out how EVMs could be safeguarded securely.

About 35 experts from India, Germany, the Netherlands and the U.S. took part in the conference. Questioning the reliability of EVMs, they said even advanced countries were reverting to paper ballots as they felt that EVMs were not trustworthy.

Till Jaeger, Attorney, Supreme Court, Germany, said the German Supreme Court had said it did not matter that electronic voting machines were efficient. Their use was a violation of the fundamental right to information as the voter was unable to see clearly to whom he was casting his vote and how it was being counted. It was a constitutional principle in German law that the transparency of elections was more important than the efficiency of conducting elections.

Rop Gonggrijp, computer hacker specialist from the Netherlands, said the Election Commission’s claim that it had invented EVMs that could not be rigged was ridiculous. At no international meeting had the Commission proved the transparency of the EVMs. He felt there was no such thing as ‘unriggable or untamparable.’

J. Alex Halderman, Professor of Computer Science, University of Michigan, said that in the beginning, U.S. citizens were enamoured of the EVMs’ efficiency and modernity. Now they felt elections ‘could be stolen’ and were demanding paper ballots.

David L. Dill, Professor of Computer Science, Stanford University, in his letter to the Chief Election Commissioner, had said: “Computerised voting equipment was inherently subject to ‘programming error, equipment malfunction and malicious tampering.’ It was time to recognise the reality that there is no basis for public trust in paperless voting equipment.”

Charge against EC

Hariprasad, and V.V. Rao, software engineers, said the Commission did not allow them to complete their demonstration of the tamperability of EVMs. Commission officials abruptly aborted their demonstration, stating that they could not be allowed to continue as it involved the patent rights of the Electronic Corporation of India.

The conference unanimously resolved that in the interest of free and fair elections, the EVMs should provide a voter verifiable paper trail, and if it was not feasible, the Commission should return to the paper ballot system.

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EVMs are not tamper-free: Swamy February 18, 2010