The debate over the reliability of electronic voter machines (EVMs) has hogged limelight yet again. Delhi chief minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) national convenor Arvind Kejriwal has called on the Centre to employ the use of paper ballots instead of EVMs in next month’s civic polls in Delhi.

Kejriwal is urging Delhi’s chief secretary MM Kutty to ask the Election Commission of India (ECI) to shun EVMs next month, according to a news reports. Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati had last week casted doubt on the credibility of EVMs after a losing the Uttar Pradesh elections on March 11. On Monday, Mayawati’s rhetoric on voting machines was matched by Congress leader Ajay Maken, who also asked the Delhi CM to try having a paper ballot poll next month.

So, why are the EVMs being distrusted by rival politicians of Narendra Modi

It is not the first time that questions have been raised about the use of EVMs. While in Opposition, senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Subramanian Swamy had been a vocal critic of the use of EVMs. In a video uploaded on his Youtube channel in April 2012, Swamy called the EVM a “fraud” and alleged that it could be easily tampered with. Swamy noted  that countries such as USA, Europe and Japan had switched back to paper ballots following failed experiments in the use of EVMs in elections.

Swamy questioning the use of EVMs in this video uploaded on his Youtube channel,

(Source: Youtube/Dr Subramanian Swamy)

Swamy’s attacks on the use of EVMs have stopped since Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister in May 2014.

But concerns being expressed by Mayawati and AAP are more or less similar to those sounded by Swamy,

  • According to experts, EVMs can be easily tampered with by attackers, who may be “insiders” or hackers. Research carried out by a team of hardware experts found that EVM manufacturers and hackers could even carry out attacks on these machines without the knowledge of the handlers (Election officials). The same team of hardware experts conducted tests on EVMs that they claim were used during the national elections, and were easily able to hack them. It has also been found that the safeguard mechanism in the EVMs is not good enough to prevent such hacking attacks that could compromise the entire election process.
  • Internal memory of an EVM can be easily hacked. The seals that come on EVMs are easy to manipulate. These seals are known to comprise of stickers, string and red wax. Mobile phones having Bluetooth are easily able to compromise EVMs, according to experts. Supporters of a dishonest candidate can manipulate memory of the EVM using a Bluetooth radio and end up influencing the election process. It has been found that “memory manipulation” attacks happen between the voting and the counting stages.
  • Outside attacks by hackers could be carried out using mobile phones, which use radio waves to transmit signals. In fact, radio and other wireless signals can easily hack an EVM.
  • According to an estimate, there are more than 1.2 million EVMs currently in use in India.