EVM - Electronic Voting Machine
Free and fair elections are central to the democratic ethos of any country. This includes fair, accurate, and transparent electoral process with outcomes that can be independently verified. Conventional voting accomplishes many of these goals. However, electoral malpractices like bogus voting and booth capturing pose a serious threat to spirit of electoral democracy. It has, thus, been the endeavour of the Election Commission of India to make reforms in the electoral process to ensure free and fair elections. EVMs, devised and designed by Election Commission of India in collaboration with two Public Sector undertakings viz., Bharat Electronics Limited, Bangalore and Electronics Corporation of India Limited, Hyderabad, is a major step in this direction.
Electronic Voting Machines ("EVM") are being used in Indian General and State Elections to implement electronic voting in part from 1999 elections and in total since 2004 elections. The EVMs reduce the time in both casting a vote and declaring the results compared to the old paper ballot system. Bogus voting and booth capturing can be greatly reduced by the use of EVMs. Illiterate people find EVMs easier than ballot paper system. They are easier to transport the EVMs compared to ballot boxes.
EVM has become the leitmotif of the world's largest democratic exercise and gets smarter with each avatar. Here is an attempt to briefly trace the evolution of the EVM and its use in the world’s largest democracy.
Chronological development of EVM
v EVMs were first used in 50 polling stations of Parur Assembly Constituency of Kerala in May 1982.
v These machines could not be used after 1983 after a Supreme Court ruling that necessitated legal backing for the use of Voting machines in elections. The law was amended by Parliament in December, 1988 and a new section 61A was inserted in the Representation of the People Act, 1951 empowering the Commission to use voting machines. The amended provision comes into force w.e.f. 15th March, 1989.
v The matter regarding use of EVMs was referred by the Government of India to Electoral Reforms Committee, appointed by the Central Government in February, 1990 consisting of representatives of several recognized National and State parties.
v An Expert Committee was constituted by the Govt. of India, consisting of Prof. S. Sampath, then Chairman RAC, Defence Research and Development Organization, with Prof. P.V. Indiresan, then with IIT, Delhi and Dr C. Rao Kasarabada, the Director Electronics Research and Development Centre, Trivandrum. In its report, the committee concluded that these machines are tamper-proof.
v On 24th March, 1992, necessary amendment to the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961 was notified by the Government in the Ministry of Law and Justice.
v The Commission again constituted Technical Expert Committee in December, 2005 comprising Prof. P.V. Indiresan, Prof. D.T. Shahani of IIT Delhi and Prof. A.K. Agarwala of IIT Delhi to get the new version EVMs evaluated before finally accepting these machines for actual use in elections.
v Subsequently, the Commission has been consulting a group of technical experts comprising Prof. (Late) P.V. Indiresan (member of the earlier committee), Prof. D.T. Shahani and Prof. A.K. Agarwala of IIT Delhi, on all EVM related technical issues. In November, 2010, the Commission has expanded its Technical Expert Committee by including two more experts, namely, Prof D.K. Sharma from Department of Electrical Engineering, IIT of Mumbai and Prof. Rajat Moona from Department of Computer Science and Engineering, IIT of Kanpur (now Director General, C-DAC).
v Since, November 1998, EVMs have been using in each and every general/bye elections to Parliamentary and Assembly Constituency. India turned into an e-democracy in General Elections 2004 when 10.75 lakh EVMs were used across all polling Stations in the country. Since then, all elections were conducted by EVMs .
Salient Features of EVMs:
v It is tamper proof & simple to operate
v Program which controls the functioning of the control unit is burnt into a micro chip on a “one time programmable basis”. Once burnt it cannot be read, copied out or altered.
v Eliminates the possibility of invalid votes, makes the counting process faster and reduces the cost of printing.
v An EVM can be used in areas without electricity as it runs on alkaline batteries.
v Elections can be conducted through EVMs if the number of candidates does not exceed 64.
v An EVM can record a maximum number of 3840 votes.