EVM vs Ballot paper – Should India bring back Ballot paper system for Elections in 2014 ?

India possesses the biggest democracy in the world and the most powerful weapon the Indian people have; is their power to Vote. Election in India is the righteous time to make the best use of this power because this is the time when the people of the country can express their collective will. People are the true tyrants that can govern the country by democratically electing the representatives to Parliament and State Legislatures besides the other democratic institutions at the lower levels. The Constitution of India advocates the electoral process conducted by the Election Commission of India through which the election of President, Vice-President, Lok Sabha and election of the State Assemblies is executed. Other elections are carried out by the State Election Commission. The Constitution of India has set the eligibility of the person who can vote. Any person who is 18 years old and a citizen of India is eligible to cast the vote. Voting is a fundamental right and the heart of the democracy. The accomplishment of democracy and the establishment of a responsible government directly relies upon the voting power of the citizens of the country. Abraham Lincoln defined democracy as the “government of the people, by the people and for the people”. That clearly states that the government is here to serve us and not us, who serve the government. It is our right and power to choose; that who would represent us in the government and how do we want to be represented.

VOTING; DEMANDS ACCURATE & UNBIASED SYSTEM

Your one vote plays many big roles therefore it must not be taken carelessly. Vote confirms our rights as the citizens to elect the prolific leaders of our government and to take part in democracy. A Vote is the Voice of the citizen and voting is the most effective way to make that voice heard. But this voice is heard through the right way and is it actually being heard, that’s the very important concern.  Voting is based upon a trust factor that the votes of the people are actually recorded and counted with accuracy and unbiasness. The whole electoral process demands a proper security and strictness.

There are two ways of voting we are here to discuss; first one is the initial and the traditional system of voting, the Paper Ballot system and the second is the new and the advanced system known as, Electronic Voting Machine system (EVMs).

EVM vs Ballot PaperIn the traditional Ballot Paper voting system, the votes were cast by the means of the papers in which the voter used to vote by marking the ballot paper with a rubber stamp on or nearby the symbol of the candidate as per personal choice, the voter then folds the ballot paper and put it in the ballot box that used to be kept safe in the watch of allotted officers and polling agents of the candidates. The word ‘Ballot’ denotes the election process within any organization or precinct. Papers voting were earlier supposed to be the cheapest way of conducting the voting process. It included least expense and complexities. But since 1998, the Commission has increased the usage of the Electronic Voting Machine system instead of Ballot Boxes. The commission brought in, the EVM system in Sixteen Constituencies during the State Legislative Assembly Elections in November 1998 and that is on an experimental basis.

Electronic voting machines (EVMs) mainly have two components

  • Control Unit, that stores and assembles votes and used by poll workers.
  • Ballot Unit, used by the voter and placed in the election booth.

These both units are connected by a 5 m cable, which has its one end permanently fixed to the ballot unit. The system is motorized by a battery pack inside the control unit.  The ballot unit has 16 candidate buttons and if any of them is unused, they are covered with a plastic masking tab inside the unit. When there are more than 16 candidates, an additional ballot unit can be connected to a port on the underside of the first ballot unit. EVMs are internationally known as DREs (Direct Recording Electronic) EVMs  have been in universal use in India since the general elections of 2004, when paper ballots were completely out of trend. They have been deployed in all the assembly polls and the general elections in 2009. However, EVMs reduce the time of both casting the votes and declaring the results of voting but it has been questioned and suspected for their asserted temporality and security issues.

EXAMPLES OF UNUSUAL FUNCTIONING OF Electronic Voting Machines

  1. Malfunctioning of EVM seen during several elections
  2. EVM could not start
  3. EVM got jammed and did not open on counting day
  4. EVM stopped functioning during the poll/in between the polling process
  5. When button of one candidate pressed, light on another candidate got flashed
  6. Polling staff was not at all updated or aware about the security measures.
  7. No special follow up undertaken of EVM till todate

Is your vote safe?  How safe is your vote on electronic voting machine?

EVMs Systems lack Transparency : a voter cannot observe the process inside the computer and must simply trust that the votes are registered on the screen are correctly processed by the hardware and software of the computer. Mere a paper receipt cannot rule out bugs or malicious code in the software nor it terminates the possibility of malfunctioning of hardware or software.

Usability Issues : EVMs outfitted for voter verification raise usability issues. Touch screen computers have a different format than the paper ballot system hence voters take little longer time to compare the items accurately when in a different format and location.

Recounts Problems : EVMs systems have two ballots, one is the electronic record stored by the EVM and the other is voter verifiable paper ballots printed by the EVM. Issues may arise about the authenticity of both the electronic and paper ballots when the result of the totals does not match. The electronic memory must be saved for the recounts but it must also be totally erased between elections, this condition might bring differences and problems at the time of recounts.

Accuracy Tests and Logic : the accuracy tests and logic on EVMs are complex and troublesome. There are two methods in the first the election workers follow a script and enter test votes in an EVM via the touch screen which is surely time consuming and expensive. The second method uses a test cartridge that is plugged into the voting machine to activate a human casting vote through the touch screen, this method is efficient but it is very complex for the one who is witnessing the test and feels perplexed to understand what this test is all about.

EVMs need to provide election districts to manage somewhat two different systems : election officials with EVM systems must not arrange the computers for voting but also provide paper ballots for the absentees, military and provisional voting and these different types of ballots must be counted and added at the time of totalling.

Vulnerability to Fraud : voting fraud is not an alien thing in our country. There have been many attempts of fraud voting by the losing political parties. However many believe that it is hard to tamper an electronic machine but it is also true that if people have knowledge and access to machines, they can easily attempt to disturb the working of the machine by taking out the memory card that stores the votes and can replace it by their own card containing the virus. A malicious EVM system can affect a huge number of votes.

EVMs can misinterpret a voter’s intent: the sensors in the touch screen devices can lose the alignment by shock or vibration during transport. And unless the sensors are realigned at the voting place before the start of voting, those touch screen machines can misinterpret the voter’s intent at the time when the voter uses them for casting the votes.

Faulty software programming: computer software is generated from software coding and programming. If faulty coding is inserted by the programmers in the commercial software used during elections which are triggered by malicious commands and keystrokes via the computer keyboard then the final results of elections can entirely be changed.

Susceptibility to Hacking: as per the vendors and election jurisdictions they do not transfer the election results from precincts via the internet, but they can transfer the results through a direct modem connection or virtual private network. Using the internet in the electoral process itself open the possibilities of hacking of confidential information.

Political associations of manufacturers: while considering our political culture, it is an undeniable fact that any company or manufacturer being hired to produce the e-voting machines would tailor the machines according to the needs of the political party presently ruling in power. Those machines would surely be subjected to inquiry, distrust and investigation from all other political parties of the country.

The impossibility of correcting and inspecting the choice of the voter: EVMs do not allow the voters to inspect and correct their choices on the touch screen’s final summary display before casting the vote. EVMs do not also serve the voters with any method to inspect how their votes are stored inside the EVM’s electronic memory. Hence the electronic records are totally invisible and unverified by the voters and which can be altered. And this unseen, unverified computer memory data is used for the final count of the votes. It is simply impossible to perform a purposeful recount without voter-verified paper records that exactly reflect the voters’ choices.

EVMs can be manipulated : Dr. Alex Halderman, a professor of computer science at the University of Michigan said, “the Indian EVMs can easily be replaced either in part or as wholesale units”. Microcontrollers are one such part of EVMs that can very easily be copied, many EVM manufacturers have provided fraudulent machines by using generic microcontrollers instead of safer and more secured ASIC or FPGA microcontrollers. Even the mother board and the whole EVM can be replaced. Neither the Election Commission nor the manufacturers have initiated an audit till date.

The above mentioned points clearly depict that the EVM Voting System has intrinsic security problems. It is vulnerable to frauds and hacking. Several countries of the world have refused the EVM Voting System because they all find it insecure and easily subjected to frauds, flaws and manipulations. Developed nations like UK, France, Singapore and Japan have so far followed the paper ballot system of voting finding it to be simple and verifiable. Countries like Ireland, California, Germany and Finland have abandoned and rejected the E-voting for a long time back. Speed of election results has been surely an attraction for the EVM voting system in India but maintaining the authenticity of the election system is rather more important. Many political parties in India hence support the Ballot Paper voting system and have been asking for the Paper back-up to electronic voting.

INDEPENDENT TECHNICAL TEAM – REVIEW REPORT

Remedies proposed

  • Standard Verification tool can be developed
  • A Printer added to the EVM can give print out of every vote to the voter which he/she can verify whether the vote was cast properly
  • EVM should be part of E-governance of Government of India

Ballot Paper Voting System is far better and reliable than the EVM Voting System !

Paper Ballot is easy to understand: voting procedure is easy to understand and to commence. The voter just has to put an “X” in the box next to the name of the candidate of the voter’s choice.

Resistant to Fraud: a paper ballot contains lots of useful information, not only the information about the vote but also the information about the voter. Each ballot paper is entirely different from another due to the different colors of ink, different styles of handwritings etc. hence erasing the original vote doesn’t seem to be easy. Creating fraudulent votes need much more hard work and then replacing them with the original votes isn’t a cheesy task.

Identical ballot and same system for all voters: military, absentee, provisional voters and disabled voters have the same ballot for voting.

Paper Ballots are inherently voter verified: a voter can easily and immediately make out that his/her information and votes are verified. Nothing is hidden and confusing.

Ceases several voting attempts: each voter is given only one chance to vote. Like in some of the EVMs ‘smart cards’ need to be inserted to allow voting which can be misused by inserting it several times to vote.

Paper Ballot is like the official record of the vote: after the voter mark the paper ballot it becomes the official record of the vote and then used in recounts. Unlike EVM voting the vote is recorded by the voter on the paper and not electronically therefore scanner only counts the votes in the memory and then deposits the ballot into a closed ballot box.

The paper ballot system can easily adjust with additional voters at less cost: if unexpectedly a precinct asserts a large turn-out in that case only additional privacy booths need to be provided and a single scanner can handle the large number of voters from multiple privacy booths and locations.

Continued voting at the time of equipments/other failure: unlike the EVMs, Paper ballot voting can be continued in the case of prolonged power failure or other type of equipment failure. And later on can be fed to either the scanner or hand counted.

Consumes less time and seems familiar: paper ballot voting is much easier and seems familiar than the EVMs voting. Especially the elders find it quite easy for them to understand and to vote through ballot paper. This reduces the time taken for voting.

No fear of technological errors: paper ballot voting included no electronic device hence there is no fear of hacking, fraud, replacement of parts, and errors in the electoral process. It’s safe and clean.

Extremely simple and without technical complexities: paper ballot is the simplest way of voting which is easy to implement and understand, there is nothing that a voter cannot identify and verify.

Gives no reason to escape from voting: understanding the EVM system seems little difficult especially to the illiterate people. They hesitate to vote through EVMs because it requires them to understand the electronic device and its instructions but Paper Ballot is the traditional and the ancient way of voting that looks comfortable to each and every voter. There is no reason to make an escape from voting not at least because of the voting procedure.

Purely Independent without outer Inferences: ballot paper voting doesn’t require any interference of manufacturers, political connections. It is purely dependent on the voter’s intent.

Elections are the foundation of our Democracy. Only through elections people can choose the right officials to whom the power is delegated, who interpret and enforce the laws. Computers are always unsafe and prone to frauds. We need such an electoral process which is fraud free and non vulnerable to tampering and malicious attempts. Computerized voting would be fallacious and the candidates which were not chosen might be declared as the winners and hence our democracy is destroyed. Voting must be kept as simple as possible if we truly want to show a collective will while choosing the right person for our government. Several countries have already rejected EVM voting system because it is just not reliable and trustworthy. In India where the atmosphere is so much prone to corruption and dirty politics EVMs voting system is certainly not a beneficial idea. India needs a simple and ethical system that helps the voters to express themselves fully and freely. Ballot paper voting is the most suitable system for the present scenario of India.

BALLOT PAPER MUST BE ENCOURAGED TO SAVE THE DIGNITY OF DEMOCRACY AND THE AUTHENTICITY OF A VOTE!

 

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