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EVMs : Securing Fair and Free Elections

Posted by Admin on September 19, 2014 | Comment

As a facilitator of smooth and secured elections, the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) have contributed a lot. From introducing convenience in the electoral process to ensuring flawless counting of votes, EVMs have proven to be a far better replacement for the old paper ballot system. Although machines have transformed the way Indians vote, their introduction has also brought with it a host of challenges, which question their effectiveness.

EVMs  Securing Fair and Free Elections

History of EVMs

The EVMs owe their origin to the collaborative effort of Election Commission, state-run Bharat Electronics Ltd (BHEL), and Bangalore and Electronic Corporation of India Ltd. The credit for designing the EVM is given to Professors A G Rao and Ravi Poovaiah, both from IIT Bombay. It was in 1989-90 that the EVMs were first used on experimental basis in Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan. 

Features of Electronic Voting Machines

The EVMs comprise two units – Control Unit and the Balloting Unit. While the Control Unit remains in charge of the polling officer, the latter is kept at the voting booth. The officer provides voters the balloting unit so that they can cast their vote by pressing the blue button. The Control Unit has the capacity to store the poll result in its memory for at least 10 years. The memory inside its microchip remains unaffected and the Control Unit can be reactivated in case the Court orders a recount.

One of the striking features of the EVM is that it runs on ordinary 6 volt alkaline battery. Hence, these machines ensure uninterrupted voting even in remote areas with no power connections. To add to the convenience, the battery required to activate the EVMs can soon be removed after the polling is over and the count is recorded.

These EVMs can cater to a maximum of 64 candidates in a constituency. Although there’s a provision for 16 candidates in a single Balloting Unit, another Balloting Unit can be linked to the first one in case the number of candidates exceeds 16.

EVMs can record a maximum of 3840 votes, which is considered sufficient since the total number of electors in a polling station doesn’t exceed 1500. The EVMs don’t allow electorates to vote more than once. After the voter presses a particular button on the Balloting Unit, the vote is recorded and the machine gets locked. This feature of EVMs upholds the principle of “one person, one vote.”

Benefits of EVMs

Introduction of EVM resulted in considerable cost reduction as it eliminated the need for production and printing of ballot papers. These machines reportedly save about 10,000 tons of ballot paper (about 200,000 trees) every national election. A substantial reduction in expenses happens when it comes to transportation, storage, and recruiting counting staff. The vote-counting process has got a major boost as results can now be declared in 2 to 3 hours as opposed to 30–40 hours in the ballot-paper system.

EVMs are of significant help for the large chunk of illiterate population in the country who used to face difficulty in voting under ballot-paper system. With EVMs coming in the picture, all they have to do is to simply press the button against the candidate of their choice and their vote gets recorded. These machines have also reduced the chances of bogus voting.

Why India-Made EVMS are exported to Foreign Nations?

India-made EVMs have garnered global attention.  Our Asian neighbours are among the frequent buyers of EVMs. India had provided over 3,000 EVMs to Bhutan for conducting their polls. Namibia is the recent addition in the list of beneficiaries. Other than the Namibian government, which has purchased 3,400 EVMs to conduct polls smoothly, other African nations such as Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria have shown interest in this machine.

It is understood that newly added features such as NOTA (None of the above) button and Braille system for the visually challenged voters are some of the tangible benefits that other countries can find besides low expenses and reduction in scope for any manipulation.

Criticism of EVMs

Although the Election Commission maintained that EVMs are the among the most tamper-proof voting machines in the world, the security flaws in these machines have been brought to the fore time and again. Several security analysts have rejected EVMs as ‘vulnerable to fraud.’ Refuting the ‘tamper-proof’ claims by the Commission, many have challenged the efficacy of this machine. The campaign against the EVMs gained momentum after US scientists managed to develop technique to hack into these machines. It further gained traction after the BJP leader Subramanian Swamy demanded investigation into the security and safety of the EVMs.