EVM’s: Are they safe enough?

From the time Electronic Voting Machines were first introduced in India, there have always been allegations against this new form of voting that it was fraudulent and supported the ruling party. The first instance of using an EVM was way back in 1982 during an assembly election in Kerala. Even before the elections were held, there was heavy opposition for use of an EVM from the Communist Party candidate contesting in Kerala. This was the first time EVM’s started being heavily debated. The court did not heed to the candidate’s concerns and went ahead with an EVM election which the candidate who protested against itself ended up winning! This was a strange twist of irony as the Congress party who had remained silent up until then started alleging fraud once they had lost!

From then on, it has become a regular practice for losing parties to allege fraud due to the electronic voting machines. It has almost become a tradition among losing parties to at least hold a press conference stating that EVM’s were the cause of their loss from then on. Losing parties were seen as weak if they did not debate the use of EVM’s! Some losing parties even went to court over the same but their claims are almost always denied as electronic voting machines are very secure and they reduce the workload of having to count paper ballots significantly.

The the case against EVM’s was made stronger when in the next assembly elections in Kerala, after the 1982 elections held using EVM’s, the election was held through paper ballots and guess what? The candidate, who had won when EVM’s were used, lost dramatically. Even though this is not proof of a failure in the system, losing parties hold on to this ray of hope even now and argue that EVM’s do not give out trustworthy results. This has been in no way taken into consideration by the Election Commission of India when deciding to permanently switch to EVM’s as using electronic voting machines reduce the workload to a significant extent and even the counting process becomes more streamlined.

There are still several political parties out there who demand paper ballots to be brought back but this is in a way going back to horse drawn carriages from cars. The Election Commission does agree that no technology is infallible and EVM tampering reports must be taken in all seriousness. This, however, is no reason to just stop using EVM’s and revert to paper ballots. In a country with a population 1/7th of the world population, it is just not a good idea to use paper ballots. Paper ballots are far more susceptible to tampering than EVM’s. The Election Commission is an efficient organization answering everyone’s queries and investigating each and every claim and even though most of the claims turn out to be baseless and untrue the EC gives no room for error.

After almost a decade of using EVM’s and being blamed for it, the Election Commission has finally taken a huge step and has introduced a new feature to be included in the EVM’s which is the Voter Verified paper Audit Trail which will help the EC audit the election better and assure parties that no fraud has taken place. The EC has received the go-ahead from the Supreme Court and is currently awaiting funding to procure the new EVM’s for use in an election from 2019.

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