Thursday, May 23, 2024

Lok Sabha elections 2024 | Is it possible to hack EVMs?; Read what the experts say? | leader

Leaders Online Desk: After the BJP's recent victory in the three Hindi belt states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, many opposition leaders have raised questions about electronic voting machines. The opposition has earlier questioned the reliability of 'EVM'. Because of this, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has clarified many times that Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) cannot be hacked or tampered with. (Lok Sabha elections 2024)

Let's know the story of 'EVM'

We are currently in the era of India's innovative Electronic Voting Machines (EVM). 'EVM' was first used in trial form in 1982 and 1983. Now 'EVM' is widely used in elections in the country. EVMs are going to be used in the current Lok Sabha elections 2024 as well.

Earlier some claimed that EVM machines can be hacked. But Indian EVM machines are not connected to internet or any cloud or network. It is a stand alone machine. It does not have Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connectivity. (EVMs in India and polling stations in America have electronic voting system. But this is a big difference. There internet connection makes them vulnerable to hacking.) Voting in Indian 'EVM' is just a push of a button. Of course, in front of each candidate is a button, name and party symbol and the votes secured by him are stored in each 'EVM'. Illiterate voters have party symbols instead of party names to identify them.

If the seal of 'EVM' is already broken…

The seal securing each EVM is broken to count the votes stored in each 'EVM'. In the presence of representatives of all the candidates and in full view of all the parties, only the Election Commission officer can break the seal of the 'EVM'. If the seal of any 'EVM' is found to have already been broken, the Election Commission announces re-polling at the concerned polling station. In any case, it is impossible to secretly break the seals of any 'EVM'. Because EVMs are monitored from the time the EVM machine is brought to the polling station on polling day, to the locked room after voting and then to the counting center on the counting day. This does not raise the question of EVM tampering.

What happened during the “Leave Europe” referendum?

Parties that lose elections often blame their defeat on the EVMs. They criticize that EVMs are not secure. Voting system is distrusted not only in India but all over the world. In the 2016 British referendum to leave the European Union, for example, those campaigning for “Leave Europe” feared losing on a paper ballot. So before the polling day, they resorted to a conspiracy theory to promote that pencils would be given out at the polling stations, so that millions of votes could be scrapped by the government, and for that reason they drove the hashtag trend '#Usepens' on social media. So that voters bring their own pens and their votes are not erased. This, of course, was ridiculous. When the 'Leave' campaign succeeded; Nothing more was said about '#UsePens' then.

Why can't EVM be hacked?

After studying and analyzing 'EVMs' across India, it was found that since EVMs are not connected to the internet and have no Wi-Fi or Bluetooth capabilities, they cannot be hacked.

If the EVM button is pressed too many times…

In the olden days, there was a lot of 'booth capturing' going on. In which a gang of a particular party took over the polling station and threatened all the voters and Election Commission officials. All ballot papers were taken from them, each was stamped for his party and the ballot papers were stuffed into locked ballot boxes. So why can't the same happen with 'EVM'?. Is pressing a button easier than stamping a ballot? This is because each EVM can register a button press every twelve seconds. If the button is pressed more than once, no vote will be recorded in the 'EVM'. This has to be remembered. During any 'booth capture', even if the button is pressed rapidly every 12 seconds, it will take about three and a half hours to press the button 1000 times (the typical number of votes for any 'EVM'). Due to this it is not easy to tamper with 'EVM'.

EVM machine is environment friendly

EVM machines are more environment friendly. Because they have saved nearly a quarter of the trees from being felled for the paper needed for ballot papers in the recent Lok Sabha elections. Between 1952 and 1998, the number of trees felled for the Lok Sabha elections alone is approximately one million. If ballot papers are used in the current election, more trees will have to be cut considering the need for crores of ballot papers. About one billion ballot papers have to be cut and printed for every Lok Sabha election. But the original 'EVM' does not need any paper at all.

What is VVPAT?

Allegations by the defeated candidates that the EVMs were not secure forced the Election Commission to change the EVMs even though they were already secure. The Election Commission has created a 'paper trail' for voting after each button is pressed in the EVM. It is an analog proof of a 'touch' and 'feel' digital event. Each EVM now has another machine attached; which is a printer. Besides, this printer (known as VVPAT, which stands for Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail) is sealed. It has a small window; Behind which a slip of paper leaves the base of the VVPAT (printer) ten seconds before falling into a sealed container.

– In this article election analyst and journalist Pranay Roy and Dorab R. Reference is made in Sopariwala's book 'The Verdict: Decoding India's Elections'. (Lok Sabha elections 2024)

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