Free and fair elections are central to the democratic ethos of any country. This includes fair, accurate and transparent electoral process with outcomes that can be independently verified. Behind this gigantic process is a little secret that ensures that the polls are indeed honest. The little white box known as the Electronic Voting Machine or simply EVM is the finest innovation of modern India. But this myth was shattered when last week an electronic voting machine during a mandatory mock poll in Jorhat turned out to be faulty, every time a button was pressed, the vote went in favour of BJP. What happened to the claim that the Indian EVM is one of the most refined systems in the world? It was believed that not even the US elections have been known to be so refined in its ability to gather all the votes in such a clean manner.
The secret of the machines being foolproof was that it is an independent machine that is not hooked up in serial connectivity to anything else. The standalone Indian system may lead to painful processes in storage and retrieval of EVMs on counting day, but the simplicity of the idea of a standalone machine can be gleaned from the fact that it can be manipulated only at the booth level and not by some central data management centre.
Then what caused the EVMs to falter? Interestingly all the four EVMs which developed a technical glitch are pre 2006 manufactured. Parliamentary constituency returning officer and deputy commissioner Vishal Vasant Solanki said, “On April 1, one voting machine during mock poll showed all votes cast in favour of BJP creating furore. This promoted Congress to move Election commission as chief minister Gogoi alleged that an EVM had been tampered by the BJP. In both cases it was noticed there is some error in the electronic circuit. In both the cases machines which developed problems were pre 2006 manufactured. Defectives machines were replaced after proper examination of engineers of Electronics Corporation of India Ltd.”