General Studies Paper 2

Context: Karnataka Legislative Assembly elections’ results were released recently. There were allegations that Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) from South Africa were being used for voting.

Production of EVMs in India

  • EVMs were first used in 70-Paravur Assembly Constituency of Kerala in 1982.
  • EVMs are produced indigenously by 2 PSUs Bharat Electronics Ltd., Bengaluru and Electronics Corporation of India Ltd., Hyderabad.
  • India does not use any EVMs produced abroad.
  • After the introduction of EVM machines in elections of India, many countries used EVM machines made in India in their elections, like Bhutan, Nepal and Namibia.

What parts make up an EVM?

  • EVM has two parts – a ‘control unit’ and a ‘balloting unit’– connected by a 5-metre cable. 
  • The balloting unit is in the voting compartment into which the voter enters to cast the vote by pressing the button against the name and symbol of the candidate of her choice and the control unit is with the EC-appointed polling officer.
  • The control unit has been termed the EVM’s ‘brain’, as the balloting unit is turned on only after the polling officer presses the ‘Ballot’ button on it and the vote is then cast. The control unit is with theElection Commission selected polling officer.
  • The Software Programme Codeis written in-house, by these two PSUs, not outsourced, and subjected to security procedures at factory level to maintain the highest levels of integrity.
  • The programme is converted into machine code and only then given to the chip manufacturer abroad because we don’t have the capability of producing semi-conductor microchips within the country.

Concerns of using electronic voting machines

  • No certification: No nationally or internationally recognised institutions or governments have certified the EVMs as cent per cent accurate.
  • Vulnerability to malware: Many software programmers have claimed that the electronic voting machines are vulnerable to malicious programmingand if it gets affected then any hacker can hack the machine and can tamper the vote counts easily.
  • Loss of data: The biggest change with technology is that no matter how much data it records, a single virus can destroy the entire data storage.
  • Not suitable to Humid places: The highly humid area and those areas which receive frequent rainfall are not suitable for casting votes using electronic voting machines. As machines are prone to damage due to high humidity level, thus usage of electronic voting machines is not advisable in such areas.
  • Manufacturing: Most of the electronic voting machines used in the country were foreign manufactured which means the secret codes that control the electronic voting machines are in foreign hands and they can be used to influence the election results.
  • Fake votes:Most of the electronic voting machines used in the country do not have any mechanism by which the voter can verify their identity before casting the vote due to which fake voters can cast numerous fake votes.

Advantages of Electronic Voting machines

  • Right to vote: The right to vote is the supreme right of democracy which is being executed through the EVMs.
  • Many developed countries have adopted ballot paper:It is the constitutional duty and the responsibility of the Election Commission and the Central government to introduce such a transparent system of voting and counting in the elections which can be evaluated by the public, the voters, themselves.
    • Despite this fact, by conducting polling using the machines in India, which is the biggest democracy in the world, the constitutional right to vote is being violated.
  • Difficult for the hackers to hack:In most of the advanced versions of electronic voting machines, there are no external communication paths which make it difficult for the hackers to hack the machine and tamper the count numbers.
  • Electronic voting machines are cost effective and economical: In the paper ballot, the amount of raw material used is higher. It directly impacts the environment as paper ballots use papers to cast votes.
  • Time savers:one can count the votes in a few minutes which make life easier for the election officers on duty. In a paper ballot, the vote counting process is quite tedious and time-consuming.
  • Electronic voting machines are quite effective against bogus votes: Electronic voting machines are programmed to capture a maximum of five votes in a minute. Due to which a single vote cannot cast fake votes.
  • Electronic voting machines are easier to carry and transport from one place to another without any hassle:One single machine can record several votes captured through that machine.

Voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT)

  • Voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) or verified paper record (VPR)is a method of providing feedback to voters using a ballot-less voting system.
  • VVPATis intended as an independent verification system for voting machines designed to allow voters to verify that their vote was cast correctly, to detect possible election fraud or malfunction, and to provide a means to audit the stored electronic results.
  • It contains the name of the candidate (for whom vote has been cast) and symbol of the party/individual candidate.
  • The VVPAT offers some fundamental differences as a paper, rather than electronic recording medium when storing votes.
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