Electronic voting machines, or EVMs, have emerged as a key component of India’s election system due to their ability to count votes accurately and efficiently. The EVM was first put into operation in India in 1982 in the Keralan seat of North Paravur Assembly. Since then, EVMs have gradually replaced the conventional paper ballot mechanism in a number of elections held around the nation. Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and the Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) produced the EVMs.

The EVM’s veracity has been demonstrated over decades of use by numerous state and federal government transitions, whenever the populace so desired. Because the EVM only allows four votes to be cast per minute, it has actually made elections safer and eliminated booth capturing. This is because it takes a lot longer to stuff votes with fraudulent information. The EVMs have totally removed the problem of invalid votes, which was occasionally worse than the margins of victory in the paper ballot method. Votes cast on the VVPAT are verifiable by voters, and a very high degree of confidence is provided by the Control Unit-VVPAT vote count matching, which are conducted using well-established statistical methods.

To protect the integrity of electronic voting machines and the election process, the government has put in place a number of procedures. Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines are one such measure that enables voters to confirm that their vote was cast correctly by presenting a paper receipt. This has been hailed as a move in the right direction toward improving EVM accuracy and openness.

To further guard against tampering, EVMs are produced in accordance with stringent security rules. They are taken to polling places under strict security and kept in safe places. In addition to supervising the deployment and usage of EVMs, the Election Commission of India (ECI) also performs random tests and mock polls to ensure that the voting machines are accurate. However, concerns regarding the reliability of EVMs have surfaced amid their widespread use, casting doubt on the accuracy of election results.

However, concerns regarding the reliability of EVMs have surfaced amid their widespread use, casting doubt on the accuracy of election results.

It is impossible to predict whether an electronic voting machine (EVM) can be hacked or to ascertain whether all EVMs used in an election have the same functionality if the veracity of the machine cannot be proven. Furthermore, the fact that an EVM hasn’t been compromised yet offers absolutely no assurance that it won’t be in the future. So the elections must be held under the assumption that the EVMs might be tampered with. According to a 2008 paper published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society by Ron Rivest of MIT, the only way to achieve this is to make the voting mechanism software independent. This is not to suggest that software cannot be utilized, only that an undetected modification to hardware or software shouldn’t result in an undetected alteration to the results of the election.

EVMs are vulnerable to manipulation, according to critics, because of their opaque operation. There are concerns regarding the integrity of EVMs because the public cannot examine their internal workings. More claims of EVM hacking and tampering have been made, which has severely damaged public confidence in the democratic process.

Ensuring the security of EVMs is crucial in order to prevent manipulation, but it’s also critical to address concerns over their legitimacy.

In order to understand that let us try to understand the Functioning of EVM’s and how it is different from the conventional system of Voting through paper ballet.

Under the paper ballot system, each candidate’s name, symbol, and serial number are printed on a piece of paper known as ballot paper. Every contender in the running has a designated spot where voters can mark to cast their ballot. The voter next has to deposit the ballot in the ballot box after folding it in a certain way. Only votes that have been properly marked are counted in favour of that candidate.

Drawbacks of Ballet System

(i) a number of votes are void because of incorrect marking or smearing of the ink.

(ii) By taking over the booth for a short while, ballot boxes can likewise be “stuffed with spurious votes.”

(iii) Using ballots that have already been marked.

(iv) Manual vote counting requires many days and is prone to mistakes and mischief.

The Ballot Units and VVPAT are positioned inside the Voting Compartment in the ECI-EVM voting system, whereas the Control Unit is positioned with the Presiding Officer.

By pushing the “Ballot Button” on the Control Unit, the Polling Officer in charge of the Control Unit releases the electronic ballot in place of distributing ballots on paper. This allows the voter to vote for the candidate of their choice by pushing the “blue button” (Candidate button) on the Ballot Unit. A red LED lights against the selected candidate’s button on the ballot unit (BU) when the voter presses a button against the candidate of their choice on the ballot unit. A paper slip with the name, symbol, and serial number of the candidate of their choice is generated and displayed through the transparent VVPAT window for approximately seven seconds.

The voter can therefore see the “printed slip” and confirm that their vote was cast in accordance with their preferences. The printed paper slip is then automatically cut and placed in a VVPAT Drop Box that is sealed. The Control Unit emits a loud beep to indicate that the vote was successfully registered. Annexure displays the signal flow between BU, CU, and VVPAT during the voting process. In the event of a disagreement, the VVPAT paper slips can be utilized to confirm the electronic count that was received from CU. Voting on electronic voting machines is deemed reliable because to the voter-verified record of VVPAT printed paper slips and the method of matching VVPAT and CU count in accordance with statutory verification.

Thus, it is evident that normal citizens can easily cast their ballots on ECI EVMs and that no technological expertise is needed to do so.

(i) Unlike with the paper ballot system, voting is done by pressing a button, hence no vote is invalid.

(ii) Technology employed in EVMs and administrative processes have eliminated booth capturing, making booth capturing worthless even if it is attempted. Under no circumstances is it possible for the EVM voting system to process more than four votes per minute. As a result, it takes too long to cast a significant number of ballots, allowing security personnel enough time to react to any attempted booth capture.

(iii) After the CLOSE button is pressed to end the poll, there is no way to vote.

(iv) It guarantees prompt, error-free, and trouble-free vote counting.

Advantages of the ECI-EVM voting method

Out of 178 countries, only 28 use e-voting in national elections, while 13 use electronic voting machines (EVMs) in all elections. Reasons for abandoning EVMs vary, but the most common reasons are doubts about security, accuracy, reliability, and verifiability, lack of transparency, and limited openness and understanding of the system by non-experts. Remote electronic voting is vulnerable to external attacks, while localised electronic systems can be manipulated.

However there is no universally accepted guiding principles or widely agreed standards for certification of e-voting. Some countries continue using EVMs due to their efficiency, which can increase ballot security, speed up result processing, and provide more accurate results. Proponents argue that EVMs can strengthen election credibility by reducing double voting and spoilt ballot papers.

Debates about the soundness of EVMs have been an integral part of most countries where they are being used. In India, EVMs have been debated for over 40 years, with political leaders challenging their use in various courts. The Election Commission of India has added voter verifiable paper audit trails (VVPAT) with the machine and introduced matching of EVM results with VVPAT slips during vote-count.

In Brazil, EVM has been used for over two decades, retaining a high degree of popular trust. However, there has been much debate about the system’s transparency and effectiveness. The current Election Commission (EC) plans to use EVMs in one-third of the constituencies in the next parliamentary polls.

To build public trust, the machines should be made open for all, organize regular hacking competitions, conduct public security tests, introduce VVPAT with EVMs, and introduce mandatory VVPAT slip-based audits for verification.

ISPR advocates for an electoral system that ensures fair elections, ensuring the credibility of the process. The EVM, a long-standing debate, needs to be transparent and transparent to build trust. Recommendations could help the EC build trust and prevent further debates and questioned elections.