Having been a presiding officer in three elections, I find it difficult to accept that electronic voting machines can be tampered with (“The problem with EVMs,” Sept. 2). The mock poll conducted before the polling ensures that a machine records voter preferences correctly. Tampering inside a booth is near-impossible as it requires polling officials and agents to be in collusion. But with hacking becoming sophisticated, a remote-controlled cyber attack cannot be ruled out. People expect constitutional bodies like the Election Commission of India and public sector organisations to be more transparent and allay people's fears. Intimidating conscientious objectors is undemocratic.
I found the article by Subramanian Swamy very informative. Despite protests by many against the use of EVMs and experts demonstrating that the machines can be tweaked, the ECI's claim that EVMs are 100 per cent tamper-proof is unacceptable. The ECI must prove the critics of EVM wrong, or else have a paper trail.
Informed voters and the younger generation have been generally averse to voting, their grievance being that elections are rigged. However, there has been a perceptible shift in the trend in the last few general elections, with young people voting in large numbers. The ECI must note the allegations that surround the use of EVMs. A paper trail must be introduced as soon as possible.
In the latest version of EVMs, it is possible to find out for whom each voter cast his or her vote. However, that can be done only by the order of a High Court. There is also a proposal to replace old machines. The ECI did consider having a paper trail. However, as anyone who has a printer will affirm, mechanical devices are not as reliable as electronic ones are. Hence, the ECI has decided that it is not worth having mechanical backup in over a million polling booths, most being in remote areas. It fears that such a contraption may lead to a large increase in election petitions.
Numerous problems were cited in the U.S. and elsewhere when it came to relying on technology to decide the outcome of elections. Machines are error-prone. To have legitimacy in elections, there should be a paper trail. It should be optically scanned and reconciled with machine results before the final result is declared. Large deviations between the two versions should trigger a hand-count.