Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tampered EVM's in LS Elections? a genuine threat?

This has been a shocking result for the victorious as well as the losers. Congress had been busy trying to forge alliances even before the results without an inkling of how well they would do, or did they just seem to show off the urgency? Here are a few references I thought were interesting.

Producing doctored EVMs is child’s play: Computer chips that control the EVMs can be easily programmed to do all kinds of improper manipulations. For example, after a certain number of people (perhaps hundreds) have voted, the rest of the votes may be channeled to a chosen candidate. This is just one among many mischievous tricks possible.
Control-units keep track of votes by recognising them only by their serial number on the list of candidates on the poll-units on which people vote. So any tampering of the control-unit chip has to be done only after the serial number of various candidates in the list of candidates appearing on poll-units have been assigned.
Normally returning officers declare the serial number assignments after the last day of withdrawal of nominations, which happens about two weeks before polling. ROM chips with mischievous codes can be readied within hours after the candidates’ serial numbers are known. During the two weeks before polling, the malicious ROM chips, or the motherboard, or possibly the whole control-unit, whatever appears easier, may be caused to replace the original ones. Would it be wise to assume that officials in charge of the EVMs, and/or those guarding the machines, are incorruptible?

The writer Satinath Choudhary is president, Better
Democracy Forum, The Bronx, New York. He is a retired professor of computer

The article can be found at http://www.indianexpress.com/oldStory/45296/

Retired computer science professor Satinath Choudhary has filed public interest litigation over India's new electronic voting machines (EVMs) in India's Supreme Court. Dr. Choudhary is a 1964 graduate of the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology and has also taught in the United States. The suit is due to come up for hearing immediately. In the petition, a copy of which was
uncharacteristically released publicly over the tech lists in India, Dr. Choudhary cited news reports of problems with the EVMs in some parts of the country, and said: "In my public-interest litigation (PIL) I have asked the Supreme Court for directions. I hope it will give a direction to save democracy in India."


Second and final phase of voting in Orissa is witnessing voters’ wrath against polling officers in most of the booths as till now, i.e.noon, the Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) are not working.

The EVMs are high-tech machines created with excellent technical know-how and carry certificate of faultlessness on the basis of meticulous testing. They should not have shown such defects in normal condition; but they may develop defect only if tampered with, suggest techno-academics that we contacted.


There were doubts about how a Electronic Voting Machine can be proceeded for recounting. Basic electronic knowledge professes that if an action is carried out by a computer any number of times with the same inputs then the result should be reproduced identically each time. So how does one explain the recounting process for some candidates close to the 'elite' in the ruling coalition (P.Chidambaram, Maneka Gandhi)?

The answer lies in the clerical error that the polling officers are bound to do when the votes are counted.

The 'rounds' of counting takes place by checking the result for total votes for each candidate with the specific serial number in each EVM. The number is manually entered on a chart in the presence of the polling agents of candidates all the party's contesting. Simultaneously, it is entered in a computer in the counting room after each EVM is read or after each round of counting. The total of all the no. of votes is calculated on the chart as well as the computer and submitted to the presiding officer. The officer tally's both the nos. to confirm that the voting has come clean. In case of the recounting that has happened, the nos. did not seem to match and the manual error was rectified, which led to the respective candidates victory.

So can we say that the elections would have been completely fair? Yes, I can say without being completely convinced, when there is a window of oppurtunity for sabotage. Professor Chaudhary gives and excellent temporary remedy for the matter.

Instead of declaring the serial number of candidates two weeks in advance of polling, the serial numbers may be decided at each polling booth by random draws by the presiding officers in the presence of the polling agents of various parties just an hour or so before the poll opening. Thereafter their names may be affixed on the poll-units in appropriate order in the presence of the poll-agents. All that will need to be done by the POs is, paste them on the poll-units in proper order by the time the poll opens. This entails different serial orders for candidates in different booths.But that only improves fairness towards the candidates, distributing the chance to be at the top or bottom of the list more evenly.

Increasing the sense of responsibility of the presiding and polling officers at polling booths, could also be considered, by officially declaring all of them to have equal powers, with instructions to try to make decisions with unanimous consent, as far as possible.

Another interesting theory, which I could not verify was that Congress has done extremely well after the Phase II, i.e after Navin Chawla - the CEC , whose appointment as CEC was controversial after he was supposedly known to be closer to the Congress - took over from former CEC N. Gopalswami.

With all these doubts about the process, it would be better for our democracy that the process is made as foolproof as possible, for ultimately the victory should be for our democracy, rather than anything else.


UPDATE - 1 : Some more references that have sprung up in recent days. These can be considered as losers moan's, but since we have a loophole in the system every doubt becomes a case for investigation.

MDMK leader Vaiko alleged on Tuesday that the DMK and Congress had won the
just concluded Lok Sabha polls in Tamil Nadu using money and muscle power.

He alleged that his defeat in Virudhunagar constituency was due to
irregularities and manipulation of the EVM. "There was a difference in votes
polled and counted, clearly indicating that EVMs was manipulated," he said.
"Similar was the case in Sivaganga constituency, where AIADMK's Raja
Kannappan lost by just over 3,500 votes to Congress' P Chidambaram," Vaiko


Gujarat High Court will held further hearing on a petition filed by BJP’s Kheda Lok Sabha seat candidate Devusinh Chauhan demanding a recounting for Kheda Lok Sabha seat on 8th June. BJP’s Devusinh had lost an election to outgoing Union minister of state for petroleum Dinsha Patel by 846 votes.

On May 16, the results were kept on hold for a few hours after a technical snag developed in an EVM, which had 686 votes of a minority-dominated booth of Dholka. While Patel was leading with 305 votes by that time, after the machine was rectified Dinsha was declared elected with 2,84,004 votes in his favour against Chauhan’s 2,83,158 votes.



  1. If this is true, it hurts but we need to be very caution next time, still i feel Happy that we got stable govt at center. Good PM, just imagine 3rd Front heading with ladies like Mayavati, Jayalalita running for PM seat. Thanks God dint happen. Jai ho congres, even if they manuplated this time we can forgive them..... Karthik R

  2. Thanks Karthik for your comment.

    Let me add here that I would no want to make it feel as a conspiracy theory. The losing party has accepted the defeat gracefully enough and I should not be seen trying to be a spoiler for the winners.

    I wanted to highlight, that no doubt should be cast upon the winners in our elections. We should see that the process has no loopholes.

  3. Corruption is just rampant in the country. One cannot ruleout tampering, Each political party would have thousands of crores of swindled money - it would hardly cost a few hundred thousand $$ to hire cutting edge experts from the west / russia to see through these. When Pentagon website could be hacked, our EVM's should be a cake walk.

    I feel so depressed and sad at the state of affairs. when will we ever be able to stand tall and feel proud about our country !? :(