New Delhi: Taking on complainants who alleged tampering of electronic voting machines (EVMs) during the recently held elections in five states, the Election Commission (EC) on Saturday invited national and state political parties to participate in an EVM challenge beginning from 3 June.
The decision of the EC follows an all-party meeting held on 12 May where the election body had said that a challenge would soon be held for political parties to prove that EVMs used in the recent assembly polls in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Manipur and Goa were tampered with.
“The Election Commission invites nominees of recognised state and national parties which had participated in the recently held assembly elections in five states to an EVM challenge beginning from 3 June. The first challenge is to prove that EVMs can be tampered with while polling and second that tampering can take place while the machine is kept in the EC’s custody,” said chief election commissioner Nasim Zaidi at a press conference held to announce the challenge.
Zaidi said that the challenge was not adversarial in nature or a prestige issue but was being held to increase voters’ trust in the EC. To be sure, a similar challenge was organised by the EC in 2009 and it claims no one was able to tamper with its machines.
Political parties can nominate three to five challengers and will have to confirm their interest in the challenge by 5pm on 26 May.
“The candidate can use two methods to tamper with EVMs—first, a combination of keys on the control unit or ballot unit or both and second the challenger can use external wireless, bluetooth, mobile phones device to tamper with the machines,” explained Zaidi. Each party can choose any four EVMs from any 4 polling stations across the 5 states, if not, the EC will assign an EVM of the challengers, he added.
The challenger shall be deemed to have failed if the EVM becomes non functional during the attempt.
“Our EVMs are devised to self destruct if tampered with rather than storing that change in information, thus if the machine stops working then the challenger will fail,” said Zaidi.
Arguing that the machines were infallible, the CEC said that software programme of EVMS cannot be read or modified as these are stand alone machines which cannot be connected to any other network, system or the internet.
“To ensure 100 percent reliability we conduct multiple layers of testing the software and hardware before and during the manufacturing of EVMs. The EC is globally acknowledged as a gold standard in conducting fair elections. Over the last 20 years, we have held 107 state and 3 Lok Sabha elections while VVPATs have been used since 2013 to promote transparency,” said Zaidi.
Zaidi also said that while the EC has investigated into complaints of EVM tampering in the recent elections in five states, it is yet to receive credible evidence from political parties to prove their claim.
“An all meeting was held to understand the concerns of political parties and they were assured that all future elections will be mandatorily held with VVPAT machines along with EVM and India will be first country where 100% paper audit trail will exist.”
While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Communist Party of India, CPI (M), All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Nationalist Congress Party and Janata Dal (United) supported the use of EVMs, provided paper trail machines are attached to it, at the all party meeting, Bahujan Samaj Party, Aam Aadmi Party and Trinamool Congress said the paper ballot system was better and more transparent.
PTI also contributed to the story.