ECI needs to dispel doubts over integrity of EVMs to restore faith

AS India ElectionsWhen the former Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi asked the Election Commission of India (ECI) to “proactively and aggressively” counter doubts raised by leaders of various political parties over integrity of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM), he raised a very pertinent point. Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and others have questioned the EVMs after massive losses in the just-concluded Assembly polls in five States. India is the only country that has experimented with the EVMs at such a massive scale. Many countries have used EVMs either only partially or have reverted to the paper ballot. No doubt that the fear about the EVMs’ integrity at a time when the most crucial security and financial systems around the world have been hacked, does not seem unfounded.

However, the ECI’s explanation that there is nothing wrong with the EVMs falls short of dispelling doubts. It is important that every voter must have full faith in the ECI and the democracy. Following repeated allegations, suspicion has arisen in many minds and it is the time the commission must do everything to restore voter’s confidence. It is a fact that on many occasions ECI demonstrations to establish flawless working of the EVMs have gone wrong.

To add to it, there are allegations that Trojan Horse or secret programmes can be built into the software to transfer all votes to a favourite party. Apparently, this seems impossible because machines of a different vintage are used in an election. For instance, in the five State elections, machines manufactured between 2006 and 2012, were in use, with those of 2007, 2008 and 2009 vintage accounting for over 75 per cent of the EVMs. The ECI would do itself credit by seeking external audit of its working and that of EVMs. Instead of asking parties to introspect the reasons for their electoral loss, the ECI may want to introspect on the loss of faith in its own credibility.

The ECI explanation in the form of a detailed press note reiterating that EVMs are standalone machines and are not networked either by wire or by wireless to any other machine or system is not a sufficient. The ECI undertaking given before the apex court that the 2019 poll would be held using the VVPAT machines (India would need two million such machines), seems to be a step in the right direction! William Shakespeare aptly said that “out doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we often win, by fearing to attempt” because the fear of failure keeps us below our potential. The ECI should do all to dispel doubts about its fairness and credibility!