The Election Commission of India (ECI) has found a solution to the ongoing allegations of tampering in the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). An open challenge to all the political leaders who questioned if the EVMs were actually tamper-proof or not.
A report in The Indian Express says representatives from political parties would be invited to participate in the challenge, along with people who know the technology, and organisations and individuals who have raised doubts about the integrity of the EVMs.
This decision comes after Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal had on Monday demanded that elections to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) be postponed to make preparations for the use of paper ballot for voting instead of EVMs.
“The MCD polls should be held using paper ballots. It should be postponed if time is required to do it,” Kejriwal said. He alleged “widespread tampering” of EVMs and claimed there was a conspiracy in bringing Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines from Uttar Pradesh, which is now ruled by the BJP, to conduct the bypoll to the Rajouri Garden Delhi Assembly constituency.
After the recent Uttar Pradesh assembly election results were announced, Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati had alleged that the EVMs had been tampered with to favour BJP and ensure the saffron party’s win. The ECI had rebutted these allegations aggressively.
Now the ECI has decided to throw open a challenge to prove the allegations that parties have raised, hoping it would result in the same outcome as the last time such a measure was adopted in 2009, when similar allegations had cropped up. None at the time could prove that the EVMs could be tampered with.
In a press release issued by the ECI in 2009, it said, “One hundred EVM samples were obtained on a random basis from ten states namely, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh. These were kept at the Commission’s office in readiness for scrutiny and for any application to establish its alleged fallibility. The EVMs were offered for such demonstration in the presence of a technical experts group as well as engineers representing the EVM manufacturers, BEL and ECIL.”
“The outcome of this exercise is that none of the persons who were given the opportunity could actually demonstrate any tamperability (sic) of the ECI-EVM, in any of the hundred machines put on display. They either failed or chose not to demonstrate,” ECI had had observed. (ECI 2009 press release PDF link)
However, a BBC report from May 2010 stated that a US university’s scientists had developed a technique to hack into Indian electronic voting machines.
University of Michigan researchers, after connecting a home-made device to a machine, were able to change the results by sending text messages from a mobile phone. A video posted by the researchers shows how connecting something as simple as a homemade electronic device to one of the voting machines could move the votes polled in favour of one candidate to the account of another. Professor J Alex Halderman, who led the project, said the device allowed them to change the results on the machine by just sending it text message prompts from a mobile phone.
Watch video of the 2010 experiment below:
The video also demonstrated how the display of the vote counter could be replaced ahead of polling to one that would show pre-set numbers for each party, instead of the actual number of votes polled when the counting is done.
The Election Commission has not revealed the date on which the open challenge would be conducted. Whether it would be held before the RK Nagar bypoll in Chennai scheduled for April 12 and MCD polls in Delhi on April 23 is the question.