Congress and AAP spread EVM hacking theory after unused machines found outside strong rooms

Political parties keep vigil on EVMs kept in strong rooms as allowed by rules and they will notice any attempt to tampering with EVMs

Congress and Aam Aadmi Party are continuing with their ‘EVMs are hacked’ theories during the ongoing assembly elections. Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel posted a video on Twitter on December and tweeted “This is absolutely shocking!” hinting at manipulation of EVMs.

The video showed a bus filled with Electronic Voting Machines. It was alleged that this was a school bus without a number plate, carrying EVMs to the strong room two days after the poll was over. Referring to this, supporters of Congress and some journalists started to spread an allegation that BJP was trying to manipulate the results of the election by tampering with the EVMs.

But the fact is that those EVMs were not used for polling, as they were reserve EVMs. During elections, Election Commission always keeps some extra EVMs ready, so that in case of any malfunction of EVMs used for polling is detected, they can be replaced immediately. After the polling is over, the unused EVMs are returned to the election commission office, they can’t be kept in the strong room.

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It is important to note that, Congress leaders knew that those were reserve EVMs, still they chose to spread the misinformation that BJP was trying to manipulate the elections.

Similarly, on November 30, AAP leader and Delhi MLA Saurabh Bharadwaj had posted a video which showed two persons in a hotel room with two EVMs with them. He claimed that the persons in the hotel room were BJP leaders.

In the video, it is seen that some people confronted the persons handling the EVMs, post which it was revealed that they were government officials on election duty. They also informed that the EVMs kept in the room were extra machines i.e. reserve EVMs.

Reacting to both the incidents, the Election Commission has confirmed that these were incident of negligence by election officials where unused EVMs were carried in a casual manner, but no tampering with EVMs had happened.

The commission said that the officer who submitted the unused reserved EVMs seen in the bus has been suspended, as he has delayed in doing so. The commission also clarified that the persons seen in the hotel room were election officials and the room was booked by them, not by any BJP leader as the AAP minister claimed. EC said that while both the officials have been suspended, no evidence of tampering was found with the two EVMs. Both the EVMs were not used in elections.

Reacting to various allegations on EVM, Chief Electoral Officer of Madhya Pradesh reiterated that all EVMs are tamperproof, and all EVMs used in voting are safely secured and sealed in strong rooms. They also informed that the strong rooms were under joint surveillance of security forces and agents of political parties.

On the allegations that BJP was trying to place extra EVMs pre-loaded with BJP votes in the strong rooms, the EC refuted the allegations and informed that strong rooms are sealed and they have not been opened.

It is important to note that after elections are over, political parties always deploy workers to keep a vigil on the strong rooms till the day of the counting. And this is not new practice after the introduction of EVMs, this is an old practice continuing since ballot box days. Compared to imaginary EVM hacking, ballot box tampering was real and easy to do. To prevent this, parties and candidates used to keep a 24×7 surveillance on the strong rooms. According to rules, political parties are also allowed to be present at the time of sealing the strong rooms, and they can also put their own seals on the locks.

The Election Commission rules allow party representatives to keep a watch on the strong rooms from the outside of outermost security perimeter. For this purpose, they are allowed to stay in tents officially erected for them. Authorities also arrange for basic amenities like drinking water and toilets etc for them. The strong rooms are also kept under CCTV surveillance and the party representatives can see the live footage on screens arranged for them.

Like all parties, Congress has also deployed authorised agents to monitor the strong rooms, and one such party worker had died recently in Chhattisgarh for being outdoors for long hours in cold.

With such round the clock vigil allowed to political parties, along with official security provided by central forces, it is actually impossible to tamper with EVMs kept in the strong rooms. And the unused EVMs are not meant to be kept inside strong rooms. If they are kept, that will be actually tampering with the election process.

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