PIL Filed on Electronic Voting System



It is reported that a PIL has been filed in the Supreme Court against the EVM system used in the Elections 2004. A note from the person who has filed the PIL along with some of the news paper reports is reproduced below for information.

While Naavi.org appreciates the concern shown in the complaint for a free and fair election which the undersigned also holds dear, it is necessary to point out that such a discussion should have been taken before the election process was started and not when the election is partially over.

Naavi agrees that there is a technical possibility for the EVM s to be rigged, but  it is possible only with the connivance of the EC officials. If such connivance is possible, they can happen even more easily in the manual voting system. Hence this cannot be a case for reverting to the manual voting system.

Naavi however has been working on an improved system of EVMs which effectively address all the concerns raised by Mr Sainath and his suggestions have been incorporated in a "Patent Pending" Electronic Voting Device proposed by one of the entrepreneurs in Chennai. This device includes not only a "Paper Trail" of voting as is being demanded in US, but also has incorporated a unique "Cyber Law Compliancy Feature" which ensures that any attempted manipulation of the device is recorded in such a manner that it is available for judicial review on a later date.

I urge the Election Commission to take a look at this device after the completion of the current election so that by the time next general elections are held for state assemblies, some of these equipments can be tested. The entrepreneur would be ready to discuss the details of his patent pending device with BEL so that the system can be developed by them.

In the meantime, it is necessary for us to trust the officials in charge of the elections and let the current election process continue undisturbed. Any action at this time based on probabilities and surmises would be creating more harm than good to the public faith in the Indian Election System.

Hence I suggest that the PIL should be modified to seek a direction that EC should take up a proper review exercise of its system through an appropriate body of experts soon after the completion of the current election process and not for cancelling the election.


April 29, 2004

Following are some Press Reports about EVMs picked up form an e-mail list

Rashtriya Sahara, Page 7, New Delhi, 21 April. (Translated from Hindi)

The Election Commission has received complaints from several states with regard to Electronic Voting Machines. Voters are saying that the machine registered their votes for incorrect candidates. Complaints with regard to EVMs have been received from Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh.

Congress party has sought repetition of voting at several places. In Ahmadabad several voters have complained that due to problem in the EVMs their votes could not be registered for the party of their choice, Mr. Babubhai Desai, from Wajad area of Ahmadabad, says that because of problems in the EVM he could not vote for his intended candidate. He said that when he pressed the button for the candidate of his choice, there was neither any sound nor any light turned on. He said, "I thought that I did not know how to operate the machine. I put my finger on another button. Suddenly a light came on and I realized that my vote has been cast in favor of a candidate who I did not intend to vote for." Desai belongs to Garadia caste.

From Andhra Pradesh also complaints have been received against EVM. Opposition Congress party says that they have received complaints that when people pressed a button to vote for the Congress party, the button for the TDP party got activated and the vote went in favor of the TDP candidate.

Opposition leaders are alleging that TDP has colluded with the (election) officials and tampered with the machines. (Congress) party has accused TDP of tampering with the machines. It is worth noting that in Potaraam village of Warangal on accusation lodged by Congress workers voting was stopped for a little while. Complaints of the Congress workers was that the EVM machine had been rigged.

From Mahaboob Naganr and Medak districts of Andhra Pradesh also similar complaints had been received.

Hindustan Times, New Delhi, April 22, 2004, page-19

EVM problems The first phase of the LS polls was marred by complaints from Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh that EVMs registered votes for the wrong parties. The Congress has asked for a re-poll in certain constituencies. EC officials in Andhra said there was absolutely no room for tampering. However, they said they were looking into the complaints.

One Mr Sainath Choudhary who has filed the PIL states as follows:

The above complaints about EVMs vindicate my apprehension that EVMs are likely to be tampered.

From the description of the complaints, it seems that the miscreants have used method(s) of tampering simpler than what I had envisioned. I had suspected tampering with the software that controls the machines. However, the miscreants seem to have tampered with the wiring in the poll unit.

1. In the case where pressing button for a particular candidate was doing anything, apparently the connections to the button of said candidate had been snapped off.

2. In the case when pressing button for intended candidate was lighting up somebody else's light, apparently the line from the intended candidate was connected to the candidate favored by the miscreant.

3. It seems to me that the above two types of miscreants were rather foolish. They could have easily arranged such that correct light lit up but the vote added to the tally of the one favored by the miscreant.

In case of tampering either of the methods indicated above, perhaps the presiding officer was in cahoots with the miscreants. Before the actual polling begins in the morning, the Presiding Officer (PO) is supposed to do a mock-poll in the presence of poll agents present at the booth. He is then supposed to zero all of the votes and seal the control-unit with the help of a paper strip signed by the poll agents present. It seems that the PO either avoided mock-poll all together, or, he knew which buttons to avoid checking during the mock polling.

It may be worth noting that none of the above mentioned tampering would have been possible if the serializing of the candidates had been done by lottery draws by each of the POs in their respective polling booths. Else they could have been serialized by a random draw at a central location, just an hour or so before the start of polls, in the presence of various party-agents, and then communicated to the POs at all booths to paste the names of candidates on the poll unit in specified order. Such a procedure would have left no time for miscreants to rig the machines.

As per the procedure in vogue, serialization of the candidates is done soon after the last day of withdrawal of nominations, i.e., as soon as the final list of candidate running in various constituencies is known. The poll is generally about two weeks thereafter, giving that whole period for the miscreants to rig the machines in connivance with the Returning Officers or the guards guarding the machines.

It may be worth noting that I had suggested random serialization of the candidates in my letter to the Chief Election Commissioner on March 24, 2004. But they did not listen to any of my suggestions.

In case of more sophisticated rigging with the help of remote control or signaling the EVM during its inactive period right after a vote has registered, with the help of special trigger sequence like 9994, even the elimination of the period between serialization and start of voting would be of no avail.

Now that voters have confirmed rigging of the EVMs, the options left for the EC are as follows: 1. Cancel the whole election and order a new one with

(a) the old method of paper-ballot and manual counting, or

(b) redesign the machines with paper trails, and then hold the election, using the new machine.

 In the latter case, redesigning of the machine with paper trail, and testing and manufacturing sufficient number of them is likely to take more than a year or so.

Thus the only viable alternative is good old paper ballot and manual counting, like most of the rest of the world.

2. After voting is finished, it is the control units that hold the counts. I believe the poll-units are paid scant attention. I don't if they even keep track of which poll-unit was used where. It's quite possible, while out of sight of any poll agents, the miscreants may un-rig it to behave normally, leaving no trace of any wrongdoing. In case they have been carried with the control units, they must be examined thoroughly. Since the poll-units do not carry vote-counts, their checking may start right away even before counting is to take place on May 13, 2004.

As for the control units, after votes have been read off the machines, each of control units should be checked thoroughly for any possible tampering. If the poll-units have not been guarded since the end of voting, I think the only recourse left for us to be sure about a free and fair election is to do the whole election with paper ballot and manual counting.

In my PIL I have asked the Supreme Court for directions. I hope it will give a direction to save democracy in India. -Satinath Choudhary  


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