The Election Commission of India on Friday held an all-party meeting to discuss the issue of alleged EVM tampering and electoral reforms. The poll watchdog invited seven national and 48 state parties to the meeting. An open challenge was given to prove allegations of EVM tampering. Meanwhile, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) workers had protested outside the EC headquarters on Thursday, demanding the setting up of an all-party committee to investigate the matter.
What is EVM?
EVM or Electronic Voting Machines are used to cast vote without revealing your identity. It is used in Indian General and State Elections. It has replaced paper ballots in local, state and general (parliamentary) elections in India. EC has announced that all ensuing elections will be held with the Voters Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) enabled EVM. EC has sanctioned Rs 3,174 crore for the purchase of 16,15,000 VVPATs. Here’s a look at the life cycle and the security features of the machine.
How does the machine work?
EVM has two parts, it consists of a ‘control unit’ and a ‘balloting unit’, connected by a 5-metre cable. The control unit is with the Election Commission-appointed polling officer; the balloting unit is in the voting compartment into which the voter enters to cast the vote in secret by pressing the button against the name and symbol of the candidate of her choice. The control unit is the EVM’s ‘brain’ — the balloting unit is turned on only after the polling officer presses the ‘Ballot’ button on it. The EVM runs on a 6 volt single alkaline battery fitted in the control unit, and can even be used in areas that have no electricity.
When were EVMs first used in elections?
The use of EVM started back in 1982 Kerala Assembly elections. Prior to this only ballot papers and ballot boxes were allowed.
Production and design
There are only two Indian PSUs that manufacture EVM machines. Bharat Electronic Limited (BEL) being the first and Electronics Corporation of Indian Limited (ECIL) the other. The secret source code is only accessible to a few engineers. Engineers who are in the factory have no clue about the constituency wise deployment of the machine.
EVM model explained:
M 1: EVMs manufactured during 1989-2006 falls under this category. These were last used in 2014 General Elections. No M1 machines were used in the recent 2017 elections. About 1.4 lacks EVMs have been destroyed so far.
M2: These were manufactured during 2006-2012. Real time clock and dynamic feature have been added to this device.
M3 2: These were manufactured since 2013. It has a tamper proof feature which was not there earlier. The machine stops functioning if accessed without authorisation.
About 13,95,306 BUs and 9,30,716 are to be produced till 2019 General Elections.
Deployment and Transportation:
EVMs are transported under proper security. It can be compared to that of RBI while transporting cash to desired destination. Machines are sent directly from the factory to the district administration to avoid tampering. There it is been stored in strong rooms at the office of the district electoral officer. BEL/ECIL engineers check the machine before it is presented infront of the representatives of the political parties. No mobile phone/cameras are allowed inside the hall. The entry is also restricted. Factory takes back the defective EVMs.
Not only this, mock voting is done randomly using 5 per cent EVMs by the representatives of the political parties. Computerised randomisation is also done twice during the session. Another round of 5 per cent mock voting is conducted when candidate setting is done after the nomination process ends. A final round of mock polling is done in front of the polling agents on the election day. Once polling is done, the presiding officer presses the ‘Close button’ and EVMs are sealed and the agents sign it. EVMs are put back in strong rooms with 24 hours security. Candidates/ representatives are allowed to put their own seal on the strong rooms. They can even monitor the entrance of the room using CCTV cameras.
How long can EVM be used?
EVMs have a life of 15 years that is why all units manufactured during 2001 have been discarded now. Chips that have the code needs to be crushed in the presence of an officer of EC. Even CU, BU display units are removed from the plastic holding and is crushed.