January 31, 2021 5:48:11 am
Ahead of state elections in West Bengal, Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry this year, a civil society group, the Citizens’ Committee on Elections, on Saturday called on the Election Commission of India (ECI) to redesign Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) to ensure that votes polled are recorded in the machine as intended by the electorate.
The group, formed last year after questions were raised about the integrity of EVMs, said the Voter-Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) system should be used more to audit the votes cast. Former IAS officer Jahar Sarkar, who has served as the chief of the state poll body, said on behalf of the committee, “The Election Commission said earlier that the VVPAT ballots of one machine in each constituency will be counted, which the Supreme Court increased to five EVMs. We are saying that number is also not sufficient and it should be as many as possible to maintain transparency.”
In a statement, the committee said there were “no guarantees that voters’ choice has been reflected with total fidelity in all cases”. It said, “Besides, domain experts have clearly stated that the present ‘quality assurance’ and testing strategies of the ECI certainly do not rule out the scope for mischief or manoeuvring of results.”
The civil society group said the “electronic voting system should be redesigned to be software and hardware independent in order to be verifiable or auditable”. It added, “To ensure independence between software and hardware, E2E verifiable systems with provable guarantees of correctness must be introduced and the ECI must declare its publicly-verifiable guarantees against spurious vote injections”.
The committee said redesigning of the VVPAT system was essential to “provide a slot for the voter to physically verify that the VVPAT paper slips reflect exactly her/his choice, for which the ECI’s current DRE-based EVMs may require an overhaul”.
The Citizens’ Committee on Elections is chaired by former Supreme Court judge Madan Lokur. Former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah is the vice-chair, while the other members are former Madras HC judge Hari Paranthaman, economist Arun Kumar, activist John Dayal, journalist Pamela Philipose, IIT-Delhi professor Dr Subhashis Banerjee, former IAS officer Sundar Burra.
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