Can EVMs be tampered with? Here's what EC has to say

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has taken a cue from BSP supremo and expressed reservations about electronic voting machines and sought the use of ballot papers in the upcoming civic polls.

The allegations of Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) chief Mayawati and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal over the possibility of Electoronic Voting Machines being tampered in the assembly elections has led to a debate on the functioning of these machines.

On the day elections results were out, Mayawati alleged that the BJP had tampered the voting machines as the party had surprisingly won seats in Muslim-dominated areas.

Now, even Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has taken a cue from BSP supremo and expressed reservations about electronic voting machines and sought the use of ballot papers in the upcoming civic body polls in the national capital.

"It is because of EVM tampering that 20 to 25 percent vote share for AAP was transferred to the SAD-BJP alliance," Kejriwal alleged. "Election Commission should count slips of VVPAT (Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail) and match it with figures from EVM results," he said.

Both Mayawati and Kejriwal could just be bitter losers as the Election Comission has a detailed explanation on the merits of EVMs. Here's what it says:

Booth-capturing threats are lesser with EVMs than ballot paper:

Election Commission of India or ECI says that the EVMs are programmed in such a way that the machines will record only five votes in a minute. As recording of votes has necessarily to be through Control Unit and Balloting Unit, whatever be the number of miscreants they can record vote only at the rate of 5 per minute. In the case of ballot papers, the miscreants can distribute all the 1000 odd ballot papers assigned to a polling station, among themselves, stamp them, stuff them into the ballot boxes and run away before the police reinforcements reach. In half-an-hour, the miscreants can record only a maximum of 150 votes by which time, chances are the police reinforcement would have arrived. Further, the presiding Officer or one of the Polling Officers can always press the "close" button as soon as they see some intruders inside the polling station. It will not be possible to record any vote when once the 'close' button is pressed and this will frustrate the efforts of the booth-capturers.

No possibility of recording votes after close of the poll and before the counting:

ECI explains that as soon as the last voter casts vote, the Polling Officer in-charge of the Control Unit presses the 'Close' Button. Thereafter, the EVM does not accept any vote. Further, after the close of poll, the Balloting Unit is disconnected from the Control Unit and kept separately. Votes can be recorded only through the Balloting Unit. Again the Presiding officer, at the close of the poll, hands over to each polling agent present an account of votes recorded. At the time of counting of votes, the total votes are tallied with this account.

Favor to any particular candidate not possible:

Election Commission writes that the microchip used in EVMs is sealed at the time of import. It cannot be opened and any rewriting of program can be done by anyone without damaging the chip. There is, therefore, absolutely no chance of programming the EVMs in a particular way to select any particular candidate or political party.

EVMs are easy to use for illiterate voters:

Voting by EVMs is simpler compared to the conventional system, where one has to put the voting mark on or near the symbol of the candidate of his choice, fold it first vertically and then horizontally and thereafter put it into the ballot box. In EVMs, the voter has to simply press the blue button against the candidate and symbol of his choice and the vote is recorded. Rural and illiterate people had no difficulty in recording their votes and, in fact they have welcomed the use of EVMs.

EVMs are quick and cost efficient:

Election Commission says that the printing of millions of ballot papers can be dispensed with, as only one ballot paper is required for fixing on the Balloting Unit at each polling station instead of one ballot paper for each individual elector. This results in huge savings by way of cost of paper, printing, transportation, storage and distribution. Secondly, counting is very quick and the result can be declared within 2 to 3 hours as compared to 30-40 hours, on an average, under the conventional system.

No invalid votes under EVMs:

ECI says that there are no invalid votes under the system of voting under EVMs. It also says that in every General Election, the number of invalid votes is more than the winning margin between the winning candidate and the second candidate, in a number of constituencies. To this extent, the choice of the electorate will be more correctly reflected when EVMs are used.

Easy to transport:

ECI says that it is easier to transport the EVMs compared to ballot boxes as EVMs are lighter, portable and come with polypropylene carrying cases.