Open challenge to tamper EVMs from June 3: Election Commission
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Open challenge to tamper EVMs from June 3: Election Commission

The election commission on Saturday announced an open challenge from June 3 for political parties to tamper EVMs and laid down rules for the hackathon.

india Updated: May 20, 2017 23:01 IST
Smriti Kak Ramachandran
Smriti Kak Ramachandran
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Chief election commissioner Nasim Zaidi during a live demonstration of the EVM and VVPAT machine.(Sonu Mehta/HT Photo)

The Election Commission on Saturday challenged political parties to prove their claim that electronic voting machines can be tampered with, inviting them to an event starting June 3 that could potentially end a raging debate over the devices.

The panel ruled out reverting to paper ballots but reiterated that the voter-verifiable paper audit trail – short for the commonly used VVPAT – will be used along with EVMs in all future elections to ensure transparency. VVPAT records the candidate and symbol a person voted for in a paper receipt.

But the EC’s guidelines for the hackathon drew a snide remark from Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which said the poll panel “wants us to cross the sea with our hands and legs tied”.

The AAP is among several political parties which claim the EVMs can be hacked to show results in favour of a particular party.

Kejriwal and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Mayawati had even blamed EVMs for the BJP’s sweeping victory in Uttar Pradesh recently, hinting at mass tampering of the machines. The EC says the charges are unverified and have maintained that its EVMs are tamper-proof.

EVMs -- introduced in India in 1982 for a bypoll in Kerala – were among several measures taken by the poll panel over the years to clean up India’s democratic process which were once blighted by controversies over rigging, booth capturing and voter intimidation.

“The EC will leave no stone unturned in preserving the purity, integrity and credibility of the elections and reinforcing the faith and trust of the people in electoral democracy,” chief election commissioner Nasim Zaidi told reporters on Saturday.

He said the challenge is open only to recognised national and regional parties, who can nominate up to three representatives of Indian nationality. It is likely to be spread over 4-5 days.

The challenge
  • Interested parties will have to confirm their participation to the poll panel by 5pm on May 26.
  • The parties can only choose a maximum of four EVMs used in the previous assembly elections.
  • The EVMs cannot be taken out of the EC headquarters during the challenge nor can their internal circuits be changed.
  • Claimants will have to prove their allegation by showing how the machines can be tampered with in the same technical and safeguard scenarios in which they are stored.
  • Claimants shall be deemed to have failed if:
  • 1) The EVM becomes non-functional after tamper attempt
  • 2) The EVM is functional, but the results are same as ECI-declared results
  • 3) They violate the guidelines or withdraw

However, EVMs cannot be taken out of the premises during the challenge nor can their internal circuits be changed, he said, laying down a set of dos and don’ts .

On the allegations made by different parties, Zaidi said: “People who questioned the reliability of EVMs haven’t yet submitted any proof or credible material to support their claim.”

He trashed allegations that EVMs can be tampered with using ‘Trojan Horse’ -- a key press sequence -- or by use of external tools such as a bluetooth device or mobile phone.

“EVM chips are one-time programmable and don’t have a wi-fi chip. If they are tampered with, the machine become inoperable,” he said, adding that it is impossible to inject viruses into the voting machine.

He said the panel will consider the demand for increasing the display time on the VVPAT machines from seven seconds to 15 and will soon announce the decision on the percentage of votes that will be counted using the paper trail machines.

At a meeting last week, most political parties urged the EC to count a percentage of voted by tallying the results shown by the EVMs with the VVPAT results.

First Published: May 20, 2017 17:04 IST