ECI underlines EVM is old warhorse, eludes questions on its vulnerability
The ad does not touch upon the most serious doubt over the machines-- that VVPAT machines were vulnerable to being used as Trojan horses to rig the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs)
The Election Commission of India released full-page advertisements on March 22 this year listed various parties that won the highest number of seats in 127 Assembly polls and four Lok Sabha elections conducted with EVMs since 2004. In large fonts, the ad says that 325 crore voters have used EVMs since 2004, and 98 crore voters have used voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines too since 2017.
R.K. Laxman’s Common Man character says “I am an empowered voter” in the advertisement, with the slogan: “Pride of Indian Democracy: EVM & VVPAT.”
“The ad does not touch upon the most serious doubt over the machines, that is bureaucrat Kannan Gopinathan’s claim in 2019 that paper trail machines were vulnerable to being used as Trojan horses to rig the voting machines,” pointed out media reports. Former Chief Election Commissioner S Y Qureshi also conceded out that the advertisement did not address Gopinathan’s questions.
Taking to Twitter Gopinathan himself responded by saying, “It is a pity that instead of addressing the concerns raised, you (EC) are spending huge amount of money to market EVM-VVPAT. As if it is a product to sell. No amount of ad can fill the void created by unanswered questions. Is EVM stand-alone or not?
These are process concerns. And it will be there irrespective of which party wins. My concerns are regarding how introduction of VVPAT, and uploading of symbols by connecting it to an external device through serial port has seriously surrendered process security…”
Since names of candidates, their party affiliation and symbols are uploaded on VVPATS after scrutiny and the last date of withdrawal, Gopinathan claimed, and then the units linked to the EVM, the machine is no longer stand-alone.
The Election Commission has also consistently ignored the growing clamour for counting VVPAT slips and tallying them with EVM counts. The EC had told the Supreme Court in March, 2019 that counting VVPAT slips of 50 per cent EVMs, as demanded by 21 non-NDA political parties, could delay declaration of results of the general elections by five days.
BJP leader Nitin Gadkari, however, is on record saying, “Discussion on EVMs can only make democracy stronger. We need to debate this issue and not politicise it… If you take three months to prepare for elections, why not give three more days for counting”. But then BJP was in the opposition then!
Saying that the EVM was certainly a stand-alone machine before VVPAT, IAS officer Kannan Gopinathan, whose resignation from the service has not yet been accepted, points out, “We are now connecting an external device to EVM-VVPAT a) after announcement of election date b) after publication of candidate list c) after both stages of randomisation.”
Reiterating that the EVM is no more stand-alone, no more a calculator & none of the process safeguards are effective anymore. “Results of this or any other election, whichever way it is, will not change the fact that we have seriously surrendered the safeguards of the pre-VVPAT design, while not reaping the benefits of a truly verifiable VVPAT design,” he tweeted and dared the Election Commission to file an FIR against him.
There is a growing feeling that if the EC can extend polling in Bengal for 25 days after polling got over in the other four days, the argument that counting VVPAT slips would take time is not tenable.