The opposition to EVMs is unreasonable

The allegation that Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) are rigged is back in the news with as many as 17 parties seeking the reintroduction of ballot papers in the upcoming parliamentary elections. The charge is being led by the Congress, and is supported by the Aam Aadmi Party, the Trinamool Congress as well as NDA partners, the Shiv Sena and the Telugu Desam Party. To claim that the election outcomes are being influenced by altering the EVMs is an unscientific assertion. Tampering with the machine requires its physical possession and this is unlikely, given the security they are kept under. The machines used in India are produced by government-run agencies. Each successive model has incorporated newer security features. The latest one, M3, simply stops functioning if it’s tampered with.

The widespread allegation that it can be hacked by Bluetooth or wi-fi is misleading, too. The EVMs do not have such networking devices installed in them. To add one more layer of security, the machines are allotted to constituencies and polling stations in a random manner, which would render any plan to tamper with them virtually impossible. It’s nobody’s case that the EVMs are foolproof. But claims that the sporadic malfunctioning is a deliberate design to influence election outcomes at the state and national level are specious. We must go back to the reason the EVMs were introduced in the first place. Experts believe the EVMs have been able to reduce election fraud and also cut costs. They have helped empower poor and marginal voters, many of whom were earlier victims of booth-capturing. The parties opposing it should realise that turning it into an election issue, and attributing the alleged malfunctioning of EVMs as the reason for their loss, is a self-defeating exercise.

While many developed countries are studying India’s electronic voting system, parties in India want to go back to the paper ballot. The parties opposing it should choose their battles wisely. This latest move appears to be a case of sour grapes. The EC, on its part, has been open to hearing the stakeholders, but most of the parties have been unreasonable. For example, they claim now that the voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) — randomly attached with EVMs to ensure that the vote goes to the right candidate — is not a sufficient guarantor for transparency. But it was during an all-party meet in 2010 that it was decided to use VVPAT. While it has always maintained that EVMs are tamper-proof, even when the BJP made similar claims after the 2009 elections, the EC should for the sake of the citizens’ faith in the electoral process do more to clear the stakeholders’ apprehensions about the EVMs’ production, security, and allotment.

First Published: Aug 06, 2018 13:02 IST

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