EC working on fixing EVM 'weak links'

EC working on fixing EVM 'weak links'

EVM machines being allocated to polling staff on the eve of Jind bypoll elections, in Jind, on January 27. PTI

The Election Commission is working on fixing all "weak links" in handling EVMs (electronic voting machines) after they are used to register votes in the Lok Sabha or state Assembly polls.

Even as the poll panel vouches for the credibility of its EVMs, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora acknowledged the need to fix the weak links in the handling of machines after polling. He said the poll panel would tighten the rules for transporting and storing EVMs and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) devices after they are used for polling.

“We need to still plug all weak links with respect to last mile post-poll transportation and storage of EVMs and VVPATS,” Arora said in an interview to 'My Vote Matters' – a quarterly magazine published by the EC itself. The interview with the headline 'Broad Vision and Priorities of the Commission' was published in the inaugural issue of the magazine. “We will soon firm up that SOP too and aim for foolproof mechanisms by the time of 2019 General Elections.”

The EC last week dismissed the claim made by a cyber expert based in the United States that EVMs could be tampered with.

The poll panel apparently moved to tighten rules for transporting and storing EVMs and VVPATs in view of several incidents reported from Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan when the three states went to polls along with Telangana and Mizoram in November and December last year.

Two poll officials were suspended and disciplinary action initiated against two others after they took the EVMs and VVPAT devices to a private hotel at Shujalpur in Shajapur district of Madhya Pradesh on November 27 — just a day before the polling for the Assembly elections. The EC later said the EVMs and VVPAT devices taken to the hotel had been checked and found to be not tampered with. The poll -panel also claimed that the devices found in hotel along with the poll officer were not to be used for polling.

Another poll official at Sagar in Madhya Pradesh was suspended as he returned the reserve EVMs to the EC-designated centre almost 48 hours after the end of polling on November 28. In state capital Bhopal, CCTV cameras in a strongroom where the EVMs and VVPATs were kept went off due to power cuts. The EC later arranged a generator.

Two employees of a private telecom company along with laptop computers were detained by police from a “strongroom” at Jagdalpur in Chhattisgarh on December 6. The “strongroom” had EVMs and VVPATs used for polling on November 12. The EC suspended two officials in Rajasthan after a sealed and unused EVM was found on the road in Baran district of Rajasthan on December 7 — the day the state went to polls.

The Congress, which was challenging the ruling BJP in all the three states, took up all the incidents with the EC.

“A major learning from the recent experiences has indeed been that we need to ensure strict adherence to the laid-down operating procedure,” the CEC said in his interview to the 'My Votes Matter'.

The CEC recently ruled out any possibility of returning to paper ballots. Several Opposition parties have been questioning the credibility of EVMs. The Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Telugu Desam Party recently reiterated the demand to return to paper ballots.

The controversy over the credibility of EVMs rekindled last week when Syed Shuja, who claimed to be a US-based cyber expert, addressed mediapersons in London through Skype and alleged that the machines had been hacked to rig the 2014 Lok Sabha elections in favour of the BJP.