Electronic Voting Machine(EVM)

Today, being the day for the Karnataka Legislative Assembly elections, everybody lined-up to vote for their preferred candidates. The entire voting process might be the very first one for many and, I’ve decided to answer some of the most commonly asked questions during any election time – What is an EVM? How do they work? How secure are they? Lets go!

What is an EVM?

EVM stands for “Electronic Voting Machine“, and it has replaced the conventional methods of voting in India! Yes, I’m talking about the early voting process which used ballot papers. It’s got many advantages, and like everything, got its own cons too!

How does it work?

The EVMs used in India consist of two units. The first one is called the Control unit and the second one is called the Balloting unit. The two units are joined by a five-meter cable. The balloting unit is the one where users cast their vote! And, the control unit gives supervising power to the polling officer stationed at the poll booth.Electronic Voting Machine (EVM)

The voter places his /her vote on the Balloting unit which is placed inside the Voting compartment.

Instead of issuing a ballot paper, the Polling Officer in-charge of the Control Unit will press the Ballot Button. This will enable the voter to cast his vote by pressing the blue button on the Balloting Unit against the candidate and symbol of his choice.

Also, an EVM runs on 6-volt batteries to eliminate the need of any external power source. It is designed to record 64 candidate names and 3,840 votes at the max. The 64 candidate names can be split across (a maximum of) 4 balloting units connected in parallel, with 16 candidate names on each of the unit.

How does it tackle bogus voting?

In order to initiate the vote, the polling officer in charge first presses the ballot button on the control unit. The balloting unit is then open for casting a vote. Once the voter presses any button on the unit, it is again locked for any further voting. Pressing any other button again will not be counted as a vote.In this way, no registered voter can cast multiple votes for different or the same candidates!

Pros of using an EVM

  1. Avoid bogus voting – Since the EVM is locked after each vote, and the repetitive process where the polling officer in-charge has to unlock it for every vote, makes sure bogus voting is completely avoided.
  2. No dedicated electricity connection required – Since the EVMs are powered by internal batteries, no dedicated electricity connection or other source is required. This ensures that the election process is not hindered even in the remote areas of the country where a power connection is not always available.
  3. Saves (a lot of) money in the long run – Yes, the initial investment cost of each EVM is high, but at the same time, it cuts up on a range of other expenditures related to the voting process that includes eliminating the need of ballot papers (used in lakhs), transport and storage of these papers after voting, the additional work force employed in counting of these votes etc! That’s a lot of savings!
  4. Easy transportation – Carrying an EVM is much easier than a conventional ballot box as they are lighter in weight.
  5. Easier counting of votes: EVMs make it infinitely easier to count votes. A total count of the votes cast is stored in the internal memory of the unit. This data is later erased manually after the counting is done.
  6. Longer Life: The shelf Life of an EVM used in India is said to be 15 years.
  7. Ease of use: EVMs are much easier to use for the part population of India which is illiterate, as compared to the conventional ways of voting.
  8. Display of result: The results of the voting can only be displayed once the voting process ends. This is ensured by two safeguards: First, the Result Button cannot be pressed until the Close button is pressed (which ends the voting for the day). Also, the Result button is sealed and can only be broken at the vote counting station.

Cons of using EVMs

So, as far as I’ve researched, the EVM lacks in few things! Since a particular EVM unit can only hold a record number of votes, a candidate can easily know  the number of people that voted for him from a particular polling station. This may initiate different reactions from the winning party to different areas. Also, the results acquired by an EVM’s control unit are not transmitted electronically. Instead, they are tallied on the day of counting votes in dedicated counting booths.

How secure are EVMs for voting in India?

Well, as of now, they provide a safe and secure method to vote!

Since these machines are not connected to the Internet, its virtually impossible for them to get hacked or tampered digitally. (Phew! That’s a relief!)

The machines can only be tampered physically  (if that is even a possibility). This is because, these machines are always kept under high security and nobody apart from the Election Commission of India has access to them. Therefore, for tampering an electronic voting machine, a person has to have an access to its unit, chances of which are next to negligible.

Furthermore, to have an impact on the election’s outcome, one has to access multiple EVM units, in different locations, which is again not possible.

Also, the operating program of EVM’s controller unit is engraved and sealed permanently in silicon at the time of manufacture. This program cannot be changed once the unit is manufactured, not even by the manufacturer! So, in all in all, the EVMs are safe!

Hope this clears all the questions you guys have on EVMs! Stay tuned for any further updates on this!