They say old habits die hard. When it comes to elections, some journalists just cannot resist from raising doubts on the EVM and its viability. The Quint has published an ‘investigative report’ by Poonam Agarwal saying that there can be a malware introduced in the VVPAT machine to tamper the election process.
Let’s see what are objections raised by The Quint.
The EVM has three clear components-
- Ballot Machine- Where the voter presses the button in front of the desired candidate. The light in front of the candidate glows showing whom the person has voted.
- VVPAT- The VVPAT will display the slip on which the name of the candidate voter for and his party symbol is displayed. The voter thus verifies his vote casted
- Controlling Unit- This is where all the votes would be registered and the EVM would be ultimately sealed. It would be opened on the day of counting.
The Quint quotes a former IAS officer calling him an “expert” to put forth their argument. The Quint claims that one can introduce a malware in the EVM at the stage of VVPAT. Thus, one presses button for Candidate 1, the VVPAT shows the slip for Candidate 1. BUT there is a malware. While the vote is being recorded in the Controlling Unit, it will be recorded for Candidate 2 and not the intended Candidate 1. The voter has no way of verifying this since he is not shown the Controlling Unit.
Flaw in the argument
The Quint perhaps forgot the fact that EVMs are tested before the actual voting commences.
The handbook published by EC says the following is done just before the polling starts-
- Every candidate sends his polling agent to the booth. This polling agent keeps a watch on the voting process and has the right to raise objections if he finds elections not proceeding according to the set standards
- When the presiding officer brings the EVM before voting commences that day, a mock poll is conducted to check the veracity of the EVM
- The polling agents of every political party are asked to cast dummy votes, allowing them to press button of their choice.
- After 50 random votes have been cast, the presiding officer presses the CLOSE button on the Controlling Unit to stop the mock poll.
- Then the RESULT button on the display panel of the Controlling Unit is pressed. This displays the votes cast sequentially and the count of votes for each candidate
- The count is then verified with the count from the VVPAT and the tally is confirmed.
- After all the polling agents are satisfied, the CLEAR button is pressed wherein the earlier votes are cleared and the EVM is now ready for conduct of the actual poll
- A Certificate is prepared of the mock poll on which ALL the polling agents sign.
Thus, any glitch in recording the vote in the Controlling Unit would be immediately caught by the polling agent when he sees the result on the display panel and also when he tallies the VVPAT slips with the vote count on the display panel of the Controlling Unit. It also cannot happen that the malware functions only for the actual poll and doesn’t show up for the mock poll since the buttons pressed are the same in both.
Such kind of tampering is impossible since thousands of EVMs function throughout the country. Moreover, when a few thousand EVMs with VVPAT functioned during the Lok Sabha polls in 2019, not one case arose of any polling agent raising objection that the Controlling Unit is not showing the exact vote that was casted on the Ballot Machine and shown on VVPAT. Perhaps the naysayers should have been more diligent in questioning the electoral process, especially when the open challenge by the Election Commission to hack EVMs couldn’t prove any tampering to EVMs.
Here are some previous efforts to spread fake news on EVMs which were busted.