EC firm on EVMs, says chips are sealed

EVMs cannot be re-programmed without damaging the chips which come sealed from the manufacturers, says the Election Commission in reply to frequently asked questions on its website

Photo by Sunil Ghosh/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Sunil Ghosh/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

NH Political Bureau

While many political parties and experts claim that the electronic voting machines (EVMs) can be tampered with to alter voting outcomes, the Election Commission (EC) has been steadfast in its faith on EVMs being tamper-proof. On its website, the EC has answered some of the most frequently asked questions on the EVMs; National Herald reproduces edited excerpts to develop a better understanding.


Who has the devised the EVMs?

The EVMs have been devised and designed by Election Commission in collaboration with two Public Sector undertakings, who also manufacture them – Bharat Electronics Limited, Bangalore and Electronic Corporation of India Limited, Hyderabad.


What is the cost of the machines?

The cost per EVM was ₹5,500 at the time the machines were purchased in 1989-90.


Can booth-capturing be prevented by the use of EVMs?

EVMs can also be forcibly taken away or damaged by miscreants. But, if it is about miscreants intimidating polling personnel and stamping the ballot papers on the symbol and escaping in a matter of minutes, this can be prevented as the EVMs are programmed in such a way that the machines will record only five votes in a minute.


What are the advantages in using EVMs?

The printing of millions of ballot papers can be dispensed with, as only one ballot paper is required for fixing on the balloting unit at each polling station instead of one ballot paper for each individual elector. Secondly, counting is very quick and the result can be declared within two to three hours as compared to 30-40 hours, on an average, under the conventional system. Thirdly, there are no invalid votes under the system of voting under EVMs.


How long does the control unit store the result in its memory?

The control unit can store the result in its memory for 10 years and even more.


If the courts order a recount of votes, can EVMs store the votes polled for such a long time and whether the result can be taken in the presence of the officers authorised by courts?

If the Court orders a recount, the Control Unit can be reactivated by fixing the battery and it will display the result stored in the memory.


Is it possible to vote more than once by pressing the button again and again?

No, as soon as a particular button on the balloting unit is pressed, the vote is recorded for that particular candidate and the machine gets locked. Even if one presses that button further or any other button, no further vote will be recorded. This way the EVMs ensure the principle of "one man, one vote".


How can a voter be sure that the EVM is working and his vote has been recorded?

As soon as the voter presses the ‘blue button’ against the candidate and symbol of his choice, a tiny lamp on the left side of the symbol glows red and simultaneously a long beep sound is heard.


Is it possible to programme the EVMs in such a way that initially, say up to 100 votes, votes will be recorded exactly in the same way as the ‘blue buttons’ are pressed, but thereafter, votes will be recorded only in favour of one particular candidate irrespective of whether the ‘blue button’ against that candidate or any other candidate is pressed?

The microchip used in EVMs is sealed at the time of import. It cannot be opened and any rewriting of programme can be done by anyone without damaging the chip. There is, therefore, absolutely no chance of programming the EVMs in a particular way to select any particular candidate or political party.


How can one rule out the possibility of recording further votes at any time after close of the poll and before the commencement of counting by interested parties?

As soon as the last voter has voted, the Polling Officer in-charge of the control unit will press the ‘close’ button. Thereafter, the EVM will not accept any vote. Further, after the close of poll, the balloting unit is disconnected from the control unit and kept separately. Votes can be recorded only through the balloting unit. Again, the Presiding officer, at the close of the poll, will hand over to each polling agent present an account of votes recorded. At the time of counting of votes, the total will be tallied with this account and if there is any discrepancy, this will be pointed out by the Counting Agents.


For the complete set of answers, visit the ECI website.

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