The Election Commission on Saturday invited the recognised political parties to an “Electronic Voting (EVM) Challenge” beginning June 3 to demonstrate that the machine can be, or were, during the five recent Assembly elections, tampered with. Only Indian experts are allowed to participate in the event.
The challenge will be open for four to five days, for the political parties that had participated in the Assembly elections in Goa, Punjab, Manipur, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. An independent team of experts will supervise the proceedings that will be video-recorded.
Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi said the political parties, each of which can nominate three experts, had to confirm their participation by 5 p.m. on May 26. Each party will be assigned four EVMs of their choice, picked up from the EC warehouses in any Assembly constituency.
At their own cost
They can also accompany the EVMs from warehouses to the venue at the EC headquarters, at their own cost.
Although the parties’ experts will be allowed to open and inspect the machine, they will not be allowed to tweak its components, as the EC said changing the internal circuit was like changing the whole device itself.
Indian EVMs far superior: EC
Seeking to dispel the doubts about Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) security, the Election Commission on Saturday reiterated that the device being a stand-alone machine could not be hacked and that it was far superior to those manufactured abroad.
Indian manufacturers have supplied EVMs to Namibia, Nepal and Bhutan. Several other countries, including Australia, Russia, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Bulgaria, have also shown interest in the product, the EC said.
At a press conference, Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi said the EC’s machines — manufactured by two public sector undertakings, Bharat Electronic Limited and Electronics Corporation of India — do not have any frequency receiver or data decoder for wireless signalling. He also ruled out any manipulation at the manufacturing stage due to very stringent security protocol on software security.
“The machines have been manufactured in different years starting from 1989. After manufacturing, EVMs are sent by the EC to States and districts. The manufacturers are in no position to know several years ahead which candidate will be contesting from a particular constituency and what will be the sequence of candidates on the ballot unit. Therefore, they cannot manipulate EVMs in a pre-determined manner…,” he said.
Results cannot be altered
The results cannot be altered even by activating any malicious software as the chip used is only one-time programmable.
The control unit activates the ballot unit for only one key press at a time; any additional key pressed is not sensed and this makes it impossible to send signals by pressing a sequence of keys or secret codes.
Dr. Zaidi said due to digital signatures of manufacturers on the components, they cannot be changed without getting noticed.
The new model introduced in 2013 has additional features like tamper detection and self diagnostics, which checks if any changes have been made.
Reacting to assertions of some political parties on several countries having stopped using EVMs, Dr. Zaidi said the machines used in Netherlands, Ireland and Germany were privately manufactured and had no independent certification system.
The voting data in Netherlands was transferred using CDs, unlike the EC-EVMs where it is stored internally and never transferred. Also, these countries lacked end-to-end administrative, security and legal frameworks. There was no audit feature in their EVMs, he added.
In the United States, the direct recording machines are used in 27 states, among which paper audit trails are used in 15 states.
In India, the EC will henceforth use paper-audit trails in all the elections, Dr. Zaidi said.