Showing posts with label AAP. Show all posts
Showing posts with label AAP. Show all posts

Friday 31 May 2024

Can We Manipulate EVMs to Change the Outcome of Elections?

The integrity of electronic voting machines (EVMs) has been a topic of intense debate and scrutiny. Madhav Deshpande, a respected EVM expert, has sparked significant concern by asserting that while EVMs cannot be hacked due to their lack of internet connectivity, they are vulnerable to manipulation. Deshpande, a former CEO of Tulip Software and a consultant to the Obama administration, provided both a diagnosis of the problem and practical solutions in a detailed interview with Karan Thapar.

Understanding the Vulnerabilities:
EVMs, which include the ballot unit, control unit, and the voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) machine, were first introduced in India in the early 2000s. Deshpande explained that these machines are “under-designed” and rely on outdated technology that has not been updated to incorporate advancements made since their inception. This has resulted in systemic weaknesses that could potentially allow for tampering.

Key Points of Manipulation:
1. VVPAT Configuration:
The VVPAT machine, which provides a paper trail of votes cast, is placed between the ballot unit and the control unit. This configuration can be exploited to alter the recorded vote. If the connection between these units is interfered with, it could lead to discrepancies between the votes cast and the votes recorded.
2. Control Unit Vulnerabilities:
The control unit, which tallies the votes, can theoretically be replaced or pre-loaded with votes. Since any control unit can work with any ballot unit, this opens the door to substitution of the control unit either before or after voting to manipulate the results.

Proposed Solutions:
Deshpande suggested simple and cost-effective remedies to safeguard against these vulnerabilities:
Effective Pairing: Ensuring that each ballot unit and control unit are paired with a unique serial cable to prevent substitution.
Geolocation Tracking: Attaching a GPS device to the EVMs (without integrating it electronically) to track their movements and ensure they do not go astray.

Case Studies and Allegations:
1. Kerala Mock Poll Incident:
During a mock poll in Kasargod, allegations were made that EVMs registered extra votes in favour of the BJP. Kerala Chief Electoral Officer Sanjay Kaul attributed this to a ‘procedural mistake’. However, the Supreme Court directed the Election Commission to investigate these claims, which the Commission dismissed.
2. Supreme Court Involvement:
The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) filed a petition before the Supreme Court in 2023, advocating for cross-verification of EVM votes with VVPAT slips to ensure election integrity. Despite evidence of discrepancies in the 2019 elections, the Supreme Court took five years to address the issue, raising concerns about the oversight and accountability of the Election Commission.

Data-Driven Proof of Manipulation:
Evidential data from the 2019 Lok Sabha elections highlighted significant discrepancies between the number of votes polled and those counted across several constituencies:

Kancheepuram: EC data reported 12,14,086 votes polled but 12,32,417 votes counted, a surplus of 18,331 votes.
Dharmapuri: 11,94,440 votes polled versus 12,12,311 counted, a surplus of 17,871 votes.
Sriperumbudur: 13,88,666 votes polled against 14,03,178 counted, a surplus of 14,512 votes.
Mathura: 10,88,206 votes polled versus 10,98,112 counted, a surplus of 9,906 votes.

These discrepancies underline the necessity for robust mechanisms to ensure the accuracy and transparency of the electoral process.

Expert Opinions and Public Sentiment:
Retired IAS officer M.G. Devasahayam has been a vocal critic of the current EVM system, advocating for a return to ballot papers which he deems the “gold standard of electoral democracy.” Devasahayam argues that the lack of end-to-end verifiability in the current system undermines voter confidence. Public opinion mirrors this sentiment, with a pre-poll survey by The Hindu and CSDS-Lokniti revealing that 50% of respondents distrusted EVMs.

Technological and Security Concerns:
One of the core issues with EVMs is their reliance on outdated technology. Deshpande and other experts have emphasized the need for regular technological upgrades to ensure security. While earlier concerns about ballot paper systems included booth capturing and ballot stuffing, modern advancements in surveillance and communication technology could mitigate these risks. However, electronic manipulation remains a significant concern due to the potential for remote interference.

International Perspective:
Globally, many democracies that experimented with electronic voting have reverted to paper ballots. This shift underscores the importance of verifiable and transparent voting processes. Countries such as Germany and the Netherlands have moved back to paper ballots after facing challenges with electronic systems.

The possibility of EVM manipulation, though not hacking, poses a substantial threat to the integrity of democratic elections. Madhav Deshpande’s insights provide a clear path for safeguarding EVMs against tampering through straightforward and affordable solutions. With elections approaching, it is imperative for the Election Commission to act swiftly to implement these measures and restore public trust in the electoral process. Failure to address these vulnerabilities could lead to widespread doubts about the legitimacy of election outcomes, undermining the foundation of democracy itself.

Deshpande, M. (2024). Interview with Karan Thapar. YouTube Video.
Warrier, S. (2024). EVMs: Are They Really Reliable? Interview with M.G. Devasahayam. Retrieved from
The Quint. (2019). Lok Sabha Election Results 2019: Mismatch in Votes Polled and Counted in EVM on Multiple Seats. The Quint.
The Hindu and CSDS-Lokniti. (2024). Pre-poll Survey. The Hindu.
Association for Democratic Reforms. (2023). Petition for Cross-Verification of EVM Votes with VVPAT Slips. ADR India.