The Election Commission has brushed aside allegations of electronic voting machine tampering in the recently concluded five-state elections, emphasising that the panel ensured multiple checks and expert certification of the apparatus before polls.
Dhirendra Ojha, the poll panel director, said EVMs were electronically protected to prevent tampering and evaluation of the software was carried out by an independent testing group.
“There is no possibility of data corruption since these machines are not networked either by wire or by wireless to any other machine or system,” he said.
The EC’s rebuttal comes days after Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati alleged widespread irregularities in EVMs cost them the elections in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, respectively.
Kejriwal said faulty EVMs transferred a fifth of the Aam Aadmi Party’s votes to the Akali Dal in the border state while Mayawati called for election results to be cancelled following a landslide BJP victory.
But the EC has dismissed any speculation about the efficacy of EVMs, which was first introduced to replace paper ballots in 2000. “Voters have cast their vote using EVMs in 107 state assembly elections as well as 3 Lok Sabha elections- 2004, 2009 and 2014,” said Ojha.
The software of EVMs is developed in-house by a select group of engineer in BEL and ECIL independently from each other. A select software development group of two to three engineers design the source code and the work is not sub- contracted, maintained the EC.
“The software is so designed that it allows a voter to cast the vote only once. The EVM does not receive any signal from outside at any time,” Ojha said.
In Punjab, the chief electoral officer also rubbished Kejriwal’s charge, saying the hardware and software of EVMs went through multiple checks. “There was administrative intervention also to make elections fool proof, also, the polling agents of all the parties were involved,” VK Singh told HT.
Ojha said the issue of possible tampering of EVM has been raised before the Madras high court (2001), Delhi high court (2004), Karnataka high court (2004), Kerala high court (2002) and Bombay high court (Nagpur Bench) in 2004.
“Each time high court checked all aspects of technological soundness and administrative measures involved in the use of EVMs and in their order held that EVMs are credible, reliable and totally tamper proof,” he said.
A petition was also filed in the Supreme Court in 2009 which advised the petitioner to go to Election Commission (EC). The EC asked them to demonstrate as to how a machine owned by the EC can be tampered. “No one could demonstrate how any tampering with the machine can be done,” he said.
In 2009 too, the EC had invited leaders of political parties and individuals to address their reservations on the issue.
“Over 100 EVMs were brought from various states and technical expert groups as well as engineers were summoned to show that tampering of EVMs was not possible,” said Ojha.
Both officials also pointed at the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) that was installed in select constituencies to ensure further transparency. Under the system, the voter gets a paper receipt of her vote and can check whether it has been cast in the right manner.