The Election Commission of India (ECI) has sent a detailed response to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which had claimed that Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) could have been tampered with, which led to AAP’s defeat in Punjab assembly polls.
These ridiculous allegations were made by AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal himself in a press conference, where he also demanded that ECI should tally the VVPAT (voter verified paper audit trail) data with the numbers registered by EVMs, so that people are convinced that EVMs were working fine.
VVPAT is a system where a machine (not the EVM, but a different machine attached to the EVM) prints a paper slip after a voter presses any button on the EVM. The voter physically verifies if the paper slip has the name and symbol of the same party (and candidate) he had voted for, as he can see the slip, which later gets dropped in a drop box. If he claims that wrong symbol was printed, he has to sign a declaration saying so.
Today, ECI put up a detailed response and not only rejected all charges of AAP, but even asked the party to introspect over the defeat instead of unfairly blaming the commission or the machines.
The response (pdf link) lists in details why it is practically impossible to tamper with the EVMs. The key reasons cited are:
- EVMs are standalone machines and not connected with internet or any other network that can give away control, so can’t be ‘hacked’ the way other systems are compromised.
- The chip in EVMs can be programmed only once and it’s burnt into the EVMs at the time of manufacture. They can not be programmed again to transfer all or a part of all votes to a particular party.
- ECI had given chances to various people, right from year 2009, to demonstrate how EVMs can be tampered with, but they either failed or refused to demonstrate.
- Every EVM in every election is checked in presence of representatives of political parties before election process beings. If any machine is found malfunctioning, it is not used in elections.
- Mock polls are done by representatives of political parties themselves and at least 1000 mock votes are registered. Some rumours had claimed that after first 100 votes, rest of the votes are transferred, so this rumour is also killed in this process.
- The machines found working well are stored in strong room with a ‘pink paper seal’ that is signed by representatives of all political parties. This seal ensures that the chosen EVM’s body can not be opened and no hardware changes can be made. Software changes can not be made as explained in point 1 and 2 above.
- Which EVM goes to which assembly or polling booth, is decided through a computerised randomisation process. This randomised allocation also happens in the presence of representative of political parties.
- A mock poll is done again after EVMs are assigned constituencies, and the candidate list is set to the machines. This is again done in the presence of representative of political parties.
- Yet another mock poll in presence of representative of political parties takes place on the actual day of polling at every polling station.
- Paper and thread seals are put on EVMs (after blocking those buttons that have no corresponding candidates) before the actual polling begins. This is also done in presence of representative of political parties and they are allowed to put their signatures on the seal.
- Once the polling is over, and “close” button is pressed, after which the data is final and secured, entire EVM is sealed. And again, it done in presence of representative of political parties and they are allowed to put their signatures on the seal.
- The political parties are allowed to put their seals even on strong rooms where the EVMs are stored, and they are allowed to keep a watch on the strong rooms round the clock.
It is clear that any attempt at tampering of EVMs can be spotted by a political party representative right from the time EVMs are chosen for the elections to the time of counting when the seal is opened. AAP or any other party had no complaints in this entire process, but they started claiming EVM tampering once the results were announced.
As a result, the ECI in their response told AAP:
It is for your party to introspect as to why your party could not perform as per your expectations and it is unfair on the part of your party to attribute unsatisfactory poll performance of your party to the alleged tamperability of EVMs.
Not the just that, the ECI asked AAP to behave like a responsible political party and not twist the words of the Supreme Court. The ECI clarified that the Supreme Court, while hearing petitions and directing the state to use VVPAT system, had not cast any aspersions or expressed any doubt that election process could be rigged by the use of EVMs.
Responding to AAP’s demand of tallying EVM votes with VVPAT slips in the constituencies where they were used in the recently concluded Punjab assembly elections, the ECI asked AAP to refer to the Conduct of Election Rules, which specify that once results are declared, only the High Court can take such a decision.
So it appears that Arvind Kejriwal had again issued a statement (demand of tallying votes) without reading rules and laws. It remains to be seen if he approaches the High Court after this or goes back to spreading lies about EVM tampering.