A comment on the use of EVMs (electronic voting machines) in elections

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A comment on the use of EVMs (electronic voting machines) in elections

Post by Seva Lamberdar on Thu Nov 26, 2015 12:32 pm

People need to remember something important about the nature and performance of EVMs before taking results from them for granted.  These days even the most secure military, industrial, financial and Govt. sites are infiltrated regularly and the information from computers, machines and data banks stolen, altered and destroyed. So what to speak of simple EVMs used for entering and storing voting information which has the potential to undergo change and manipulation with the help of a simple spurious software. There is nothing currently in the system (election process) which can ensure the integrity of EVMs, including that of voting information entered and stored inside the EVMs and the election results based on it.

As indicated in a recent Sulekha blog and the ensuing discussion related to the use of EVMs in elections (“Trust, but verify” by Lamberdar, Nov. 10, 2015, http://creative.sulekha.com/trust-but-verify_626126_blog), there are no hardcopy records (e.g. paper ballots) available currently for votes cast electronically on EVMs. This makes it difficult to verify the accuracy of election results from EVMs, by conducting a recount of votes cast initially on EVMs. Moreover, it is hard to explain the difference in results and rule out any fraud related to the voting machines even if there appears to be a significant variation in the voting trends during final vote count, such as the results from hardcopy paper (postal) ballots showing a tilt towards one political alliance or party while those from EVM (electronic) voting favoring other political alliance or party.

The current use of EVMs is susceptible to easy manipulation, as indicated also by a number of limitations for EVMs in Appendix below, Thus, in spite of any prior (pre-election) calibration of EVMs to demonstrate them as a useful and reliable tool, it certainly seems possible to alter and destroy the voting records in EVMs with the help of spurious software or computer commands, both initially (at voting time) and later (during the storage and retrieval of voting data).

Therefore, any miscreant (locally or from outside), with sufficient resources and technical knowhow and without raising any suspicion (because of the current lack of a proper paper trail or hardcopy record of EVM votes, which could be used later during manual recount etc. to verify EVM results), would be able to manipulate the EVMs in a bid to artificially influence the election outcome, specifically leading to the election victory (or loss) for some socially and politically prominent candidates in just a few constituencies and / or causing a political chaos and confusion throughout by artificially skewing the election outcome in the entire electorate. Meanwhile, unfortunately, the unsuspecting public and even the losing candidates would have no idea about what occurred behind their backs, considering especially that they had no clue about the potential vulnerabilities in EVMs and what could have been done to secure the valid operation from EVMs (such as by having a proper paper trail for EVM votes which could be used later to scrutinize and verify EVM results). .

In conclusion, to ensure proper election results and be able to verify the EVM performance in elections for any fraud or manipulation, it is important to have a hardcopy record available for EVM votes, generated independently and outside the EVM at the time of initial voting, so that it can be used later during recount, if necessary.  Incidentally, many rich countries (including Canada), which can easily afford the EVMs for elections, still use paper ballots thus automatically avoiding the above pitfalls related to EVMs.

Appendix
Some vulnerabilities in the EVMs (*)

Like "I" (Suresh Rao) have commented elsewhere EVMs should have added paper trail mechanism similar to 'money counting machines' that include a paper roll printer.

If EEPROM chips are used in EVMs the stored data can be changed (with software engineer effort) in a storage shed if the EVMs are not guarded 24hrs!

[EEPROM = Electrically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory) is user-modifiable read-only memory (ROM) that can be erased and reprogrammed (written to) repeatedly through the application of higher than normal electrical voltage. ]

However, if EPROM chips are used in EVMs it is not that easy to alter data in them (but, it can be done too). [EPROM (erasable programmable read-only memory) is programmable read-only memory (programmable ROM) that can be erased and re-used. Erasure is caused by shining an intense ultraviolet light through a window that is designed into the memory chip.]

(*) Suresh Rao’s comment to a Sulekha blog (“Shrill Over Intolerance Has Died,”  by Navneet, Nov. 21’15 --  http://creative.sulekha.com/shriil-over-intolerance-has-died_626352_blog)

: Lamberdar

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Re: A comment on the use of EVMs (electronic voting machines) in elections

Post by Hellsangel on Thu Nov 26, 2015 12:38 pm

Get over it! Modi lost Bihar by his own fault.

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Re: A comment on the use of EVMs (electronic voting machines) in elections

Post by Seva Lamberdar on Fri Nov 27, 2015 10:21 am

Hellsangel wrote:Get over it! Modi lost Bihar by his own fault.
Where did I say anything about Modi or Bihar in the above write-up? It's only about the EVMs and their performance, with the likelihood of their getting manipulated easily.

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Re: A comment on the use of EVMs (electronic voting machines) in elections

Post by truthbetold on Fri Nov 27, 2015 10:25 am

Seva,

Did Modi manipulate evm's in 2014?

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Re: A comment on the use of EVMs (electronic voting machines) in elections

Post by Seva Lamberdar on Fri Nov 27, 2015 10:52 am

truthbetold wrote:Seva,

Did Modi manipulate evm's in 2014?

Is that your answer / explanation to indicate that EVMs can't be manipulated? Isn't it possible that Modi could have got a greater majority in Parliament in the last elections without the EVMs and that some of other parties' members might have lost if the EVMs were not there?

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Re: A comment on the use of EVMs (electronic voting machines) in elections

Post by truthbetold on Fri Nov 27, 2015 11:06 am

Seva Lamberdar wrote:
truthbetold wrote:Seva,

Did Modi manipulate evm's in 2014?

Is that your answer / explanation to indicate that EVMs can't be manipulated? Isn't it possible that Modi could have got a greater majority in Parliament in the last elections without the EVMs and that some of other parties' members might have lost if the EVMs were not there?

CD,

Possible.

Let us check some related facts.

UP (Run by SP which is bitterly opposed to BJP) - BJP won 72 seats ( a huge number by any estimate).

Bihar (Run by JD(u)) - BJP won a majority of seats.

AP (Run by Congress) - TDP and TRS won big, congress won zero in AP, and couple in T (i am not sure of the number).

BJP never had a base in estern coast of India and did not win much in that area.

in 2014, BJP won maximum seats it can win for foreseeable future.

The above facts seem to indicate, EVM manipulation is either not happening or it is not very effective.


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Re: A comment on the use of EVMs (electronic voting machines) in elections

Post by Seva Lamberdar on Fri Nov 27, 2015 11:19 am

truthbetold wrote:
Seva Lamberdar wrote:
truthbetold wrote:Seva,

Did Modi manipulate evm's in 2014?

Is that your answer / explanation to indicate that EVMs can't be manipulated? Isn't it possible that Modi could have got a greater majority in Parliament in the last elections without the EVMs and that some of other parties' members might have lost if the EVMs were not there?

CD,

Possible.

Let us check some related facts.  

UP (Run by SP which is bitterly opposed to BJP) - BJP won 72 seats ( a huge number by any estimate).

Bihar (Run by JD(u)) - BJP won a majority of seats.

AP (Run by Congress) - TDP and TRS won big, congress won zero in AP, and couple in T (i am not sure of the number).

BJP never had a base in estern coast of India and did not win much in that area.

in 2014, BJP won maximum seats it can win for foreseeable future.

The above facts seem to indicate, EVM manipulation is either not happening or it is not very effective.


You can look at it differently, as I indicated earlier -- BJP did reasonably well perhaps, in spite of the EVMs.

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Re: A comment on the use of EVMs (electronic voting machines) in elections

Post by truthbetold on Fri Nov 27, 2015 12:21 pm

Seva,

Yes. We do look at things differently.

BJP did very well in all its traditional base areas.

The fact that non ruling parties did very well in many states indicates ruling entities do not have the magic of evm manipulation.

I have yet to see a logical basis for your argument.

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Re: A comment on the use of EVMs (electronic voting machines) in elections

Post by Seva Lamberdar on Mon Nov 30, 2015 9:34 am

truthbetold wrote:Seva,

Yes. We do look at things differently.  

BJP did very well in all its traditional base areas.  

The fact that non ruling parties did very well in many states indicates ruling entities do not have the magic of evm manipulation.

I have yet to see a logical basis for your argument.

EVMs, as they are currently (without proper paper trail), will always be prone to manipulation whether, or not, they have already been used fraudulently.

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Re: A comment on the use of EVMs (electronic voting machines) in elections

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