These elections were marked by the controversy surrounding the Electronic Voting Machines or (EVMs), with some opposition parties even accusing the government of manipulating EVMs for their benefit. However, a report by the expert committee instituted by the Election Commission of India, (ECI) comprising Abhay Bhatt of the Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi, Rajeeva Karandikar of the Chennai Mathematical Institute, and Onkar Prosad Ghosh, of the Central Statistical Office, allays fears of EVM tampering, and concludes that the sanctity of the elections has not been compromised.

The authors argue that since there is no networking component in the EVMs, it is impossible to manipulate them remotely. Tampering is only possible with physical access and the elaborate sealing process of EVMs done by the ECI prevents this from happening. Further, it is possible to cross verify the vote count issued by the EVMs, through paper slips produced by VVPATs (voter-verifiable paper audit trail). The ECI had a policy where it selected one booth per assembly segment for VVPAT verification, which means that 4,125 EVMs are examined for every general election. This time, though, the Supreme Court ruled that 5 EVMs per assembly segments be drawn. The authors assert that if no defective EVM was found in these 20,625 chosen booths, the likelihood of total defective EVMs across the country would be less than 0.25%.

The authors also suggest that EVM distribution across constituencies make tampering very difficult. The EVMs are distributed across the constituencies via randomisation. The EVMs used in India consist of two units: BU, the balloting unit and CU, the control unit. The BUs and CUs are distributed independently and, on the day of polling, the two are connected. If one of them has been tampered or replaced, they are incompatible. Considering all these safeguards, the authors conclude that it’s highly unlikely that EVMs have been or can be tampered with.

Also read : The EVM – VVPAT saga