Asia

Articles about voting issues in Asia, Australia and Oceania.

India: ECIL Directs Disclosure of Information About Electronic Voting Machines and VVPAT Deployment in 2019 Elections | Venkatesh Nayak/The Wire

In September 2019, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative reported that the Bharat Electronics Ltd. (BEL) did a volte face under the Right to Information (RTI) Act about supplying information relating to Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and Voter Verified Paper Trail Units (VVPATs) deployed during the 2019 general elections. After demanding copying charges to provide the information I requested, the central public information officer (CPIO) returned the money, claiming that BEL did not hold some of the information and that disclosing names of engineers deputed to provide technical support for these machines at the constituency-level would endanger their lives. The CPIO also denied access to operational manuals relating to these machines. The CPIO of the Electronics Corporation Ltd (ECIL), which also supplied EVMs and VVPATs for use during the same elections, had also denied information sought in an identical RTI application. Now, in a welcome turnaround, the ECIL’s first appellate authority (FAA) has upheld my first appeal and directed its CPIO to provide access to all information which had been denied earlier. Meanwhile, the BEL’s FAA directed the CPIO to transfer the queries relating to the number of EVMs and VVPATs deployed during the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections to the Election Commission of India (ECI) but upheld his decision to reject information about engineers and operational manuals used.

Full Article: ECIL Directs Disclosure of Information About EVM and VVPAT Deployment in 2019 Elections.

India: Election Commission releases new cybersecurity guidelines | Samaya Dharmaraj/OpenGov Asia

The Election Commission of India (ECI) recently released a document outlining cybersecurity guidelines for the upcoming Assembly elections. All Indian states have received detailed cybersecurity guidelines, which include a special audit of all ICT applications hosted by the chief electoral officer, cyber hygiene for the electoral staff, and detailed application/infrastructure level guidelines. According to the document, ECI has taken several steps to ensure cyber safety for the Lok Sabha (House of the People) Elections. ECI has created clear regulations for cybersecurity and educated its entire electoral staff through several workshops. One of its major initiatives was to revamp old applications, reduce the number of applications, and consolidate them into a few manageable ones. Furthermore, all applications have been built with cybersecurity measures in design by default. The core principles are to reduce the attack surface area, deploy defence-in-depth, and to fix security issues correctly.

Full Article: Indian Election Commission releases new cybersecurity guidelines | OpenGov Asia.

China: Beijing’s Online Manipulation and Interference During the Election | Marcus Kolga/Epoch Times

Over the past three years, a growing din of alarm bells have warned us about the threat of Russian foreign influence campaigns against our elections, our media, and our democracy. Other malign totalitarian regimes have engaged in similar operations to manipulate our perceptions in efforts to polarize debate and divide us. China is no exception. Over the past weeks, a massive “state-backed information operation” targeting the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement and activists was detected and exposed by major social media platforms Twitter, Facebook, and Google. Twitter identified some 200,000 accounts, many of which “were deliberately and specifically attempting to sow political discord in Hong Kong, including undermining the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement on the ground.” According to Twitter’s research, most of the accounts and their subversive activity has been “state-backed.” Based on a tip from Twitter, Facebook suspended several China-based accounts, groups, and pages that exposed thousands of Facebook users to disinformation aimed at undermining support for the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.

Full Article: Beijing’s Online Manipulation and Interference During the Election.

India: VVPAT-auditing data and credibility of electronic voting machines | Atanu Biswas/The Tribune

Even as some top politicians are raising doubts and have made references to the alleged manipulation of EVMs (electronic voting machines), millions of voters in the country are getting confused. Common people don’t understand the mechanism of a complicated machine like the EVM. Rather, they depend on the institutions and/or their leaders to frame their opinions. However, there was a VVPAT-auditing of the EVMs — five per Assembly constituency of the country — as directed by the Supreme Court. One obvious, yet important, question is how the opinion on EVMs will be reframed with the VVPAT-auditing data. A voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) slip is nothing but a machine-generated ballot paper, verified by the voter himself/herself. And if the VVPAT counts are further tallied with the corresponding EVM counts, that would give a double-check. The objective of tallying VVPAT counts with the corresponding EVM counts is to check whether the EVMs are tampered with or not. If there is no mismatch for a machine, one can safely conclude that there is no tampering in that EVM, at least.

Full Article: VVPAT-auditing data and credibility of EVMs.

Philippines: Clans in Congress want to go ‘hybrid’: Comelec line change: 7 Duterte appointees to run 2022 elections | Malou Mangahas and Karol Ilagan/MindaNews

Clean, honest, inclusive, and credible elections might well turn into just a pipedream when the votes for president, vice president, legislators, and local officials come up in May 2022. As it is, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has already found itself confronted by big back and forward issues: unsettled flawed supplies contracts and weak project management systems that marked the May 2019 elections; five of its seven commissioners, and its executive director, retiring between January next year to February 2022; and an apparently concerted effort by politicians to write finish to its automated-election system or AES. Claiming fraud was triggered by defective vote-counting machines, politicians from old political clans led no less by President Rodrigo R. Duterte have urged Comelec and Congress to junk the AES and instead revert to a hybrid system of elections, or one that is partly manual and partly automated. But election observers worry that this hybrid system posits opportunities for ballot-box stuffing and snatching, and the dagdag-bawas system driven by the guns, goons, and gold of elections past. Complicating matters is the fact that the push for ‘hybrid’ elections is unfolding as Comelec prepares for impending major changes among its commissioners. In fact, by the time of the next synchronized presidential, legislative, and local elections in May 2022, the poll body will face a major topline change. Worse yet, the changing of guards could happen midway in the campaign period.

Full Article: Clans in Congress want to go ‘hybrid’: Comelec line change: 7 Duterte appointees to run 2022 elections | MindaNews.

India: Electronic Voting Machines Controversy: Election Commission’s Use Of Contract Engineers Puts Indian Elections At Risk | Ravi Nair/HuffPost India

The Election Commission of India has deployed teams of private contract workers, with a minimum work experience of just one year, to Maharashtra and Haryana, where they are conducting “first-level checks” on Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) for state assembly elections scheduled for later this year, HuffPost India has learnt. These engineers told HuffPost India they had previously been tasked with critical aspects of the voting process — including setting EVMs and loading symbols into vote verification machines called VVPATS — in the 2019 general elections. Opposition leaders in these states told HuffPost India they were unaware that first-level checks on EVMs had begun, and that these checks were being performed by engineers who were not full-time employees of Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL), two state-owned companies that manufacture and maintain EVMs for the Election Commission. The Election Commission has never admitted to the use of contract workers, and the commission’s own guidelines require that representatives from all political parties be present when first level checks on EVMs are conducted. This HuffPost India report suggests that the nature of electronic voting makes it impossible for the Election Commission of India to maintain full control over all aspects of the voting process, despite its protestations to the contrary. The Commission’s submissions in Supreme Court indicate, at best, a fundamental ignorance about the nature of cybersecurity threats.

Full Article: EVM Controversy: Election Commission’s Use Of Contract Engineers Puts Indian Elections At Risk | HuffPost India.

India: Why Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trails aren’t enough to build confidence in electronic voting machines | Atanu Biswas/Hindustan Times

Two months after the declaration of Lok Sabha election results, conspiracy theories about possible tampering of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) are still doing the rounds. That important opposition leaders have demanded a return to paper ballots and even openly supported EVM-rigging theories has lend credence to the latter – although some of their behavior can be attributed to just being bad losers. Still, doubts about EVMs have been planted, despite the fact that none of the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines showed a mismatch with the EVM count. The Supreme Court ordered the Election Commission of India (ECI) that five VVPATs per assembly constituency (AC) should be matched with the EVM count of votes. Statistically speaking this is adequate to remove doubts about possible tampering of EVMs. In an earlier article in HT dated April 27, 2018, this author had argued that tallying just
11, 29, 58 and 534 VVPATs per parliamentary constituency (PC) would allow us to find a rigged EVM with 95% probability for scenarios where 25%, 10%, 5% and 0.5% of the EVMs were tampered in a given PC. Are EVM rigging fears an example of conspiracy theories defeating statistical methods? Ironical as it may sound; an eighteenth century concept in statistics known as Bayes’ theorem can help us understand why matching a sample of VVPATs with EVMs is failing to generate confidence in the credibility of EVMs.

Full Article: Opinion| Why VVPATs aren’t enough to build confidence in EVMs | opinion | Hindustan Times.

India: Electronic voting machine ‘tampering’: activists send legal notice to foreign microchips makers | Shoumojit Banerjee/The Hindu

Amid apprehensions about the credibility of electronic voting machines (EVMs), Pune-based civic activist Maruti Bhapkar has issued legal notice through noted lawyer and rights activist Asim Sarode to the Arizona-based Microchip Technology Inc. and Renesas Electronics headquartered in Tokyo on the alleged EVM manipulation in the recent general election. The activists contend that as the firms were engaged in making microchips for the EVMs used in the election, it makes them suspects in any alleged electoral fraud that may have been committed. In the interests of transparency and clarity, Mr. Bhapkar and Mr. Sarode say, they have demanded that the firms publicly disclose copies of their agreements or contracts made with the Election Commission of India (ECI). “Through activists working in this field, we have come to know of four major foreign companies – two U.S.-based, one Canadian and one Japanese – that make the microchips for the EVMs used in the Lok Sabha election. As of now, we have sent legal notice to two of these reputed firms,” Mr. Sarode told The Hindu.

Full Article: EVM ‘tampering’: activists send legal notice to foreign microchips makers - The Hindu.

Philippines: Smartmatic presents alternative digital poll system | Roderick Abad/Business Mirror

Following the success of the recent 2019 midterm elections, Smartmatic has vowed to keep on providing a secure voting technology and transparent poll process to the Philippines as the government looks for an alternative Automated Election System (AES). “Smartmatic has been a leader in providing an efficient, secure and transparent automated election system in many counties and in the Philippines. We want to continue this and strengthen our partnership with the government in providing a secure, faster and credible election system,” said Ramaakanth Sake, president of Smartmatic Asia Pacific. The company participated in the AES Technology Fair of the Department of Information and Communications Technology on July 15. The event had different local and global providers presenting their concept or prototype of an alternative AES that could be utilized for the 2022 national and local elections. Smartmatic showcased its latest direct recording electronic voting machines, which use a touch screen to eliminate the need for paper ballots and lessen the possibility of read errors. Per the elections technology firm, the touch screen would need a voter’s fingerprint prior to its perusal.

Full Article: Smartmatic presents alternative digital poll system | BusinessMirror.

India: No concrete evidence of electronic voting machine tampering, but apprehensions are there over its functioning: Yechury | The New Indian Express

CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury Tuesday said although there are no concrete evidence of tampering of electronic voting machines, several questions and apprehensions have cropped up over its functioning. All the major political parties may discuss the matter together and take up the issue with the Election commission (EC) with the demand for setting up of an expert committee to look into the matter, Yechury said. Several questions have been raised over the functioning of EVMs during the Lok Sabha polls, he said. “In Lok Sabha polls in Karnataka, the BJP swept the polls. But within a week when municipal polls were held on ballot papers, the Congress-JD(S) swept the polls. The same thing has happened elsewhere,” the CPI(M) leader said. On the demands by several parties to replace EVMs with ballot papers, Yechury said the major political parties might discuss the matter after the Parliament session is over and ask the EC to constitute an expert panel to look into the matter.

Full Article: No concrete evidence of EVM tampering, but apprehensions are there over its functioning: Yechury- The New Indian Express.

Philippines: Comelec on trial | Jejomar C. Binay/Manila Bulletin News

A few days after the mid-term elections in May, no less than President Duterte himself called on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to replace Smartmatic owing to allegations of election fraud. Almost two months have passed since the President’s remarks. But after the perfunctory reactions from Comelec officials, it seems that the poll body has opted to keep mum on the touchy subject. The issue, however, would be hard to brush off. The positioning for the 2022 presidential elections is expected to start in earnest. But unlike the 2010 and 2016 presidential elections, there is now a cloud of doubt on the reliability of electronic voting. And in a span of nine years, it appears that Comelec’s credibility has plummeted from the nearly universal acclaim it received in 2010. The descent to ignominy began in the eyes of many observers in 2017, with a very public spat with then Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista. Among the many damning revelations made were supposed documents showing alleged commissions received by the former poll chief from their election technology supplier, Smartmatic.

Full Article: Comelec on trial » Manila Bulletin News.

India: Opposition parties plan big revolt against electronic voting machines | Manan Kumar/DNA

After getting no relief from either the Election Commission or the Supreme Court on their petitions on the alleged misuse of “doubtful” electronic voting machines (EVMs) during the recent Lok Sabha elections, the opposition parties are gearing up to launch yet another big battle. While West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Sunday explicitly blamed the EVMs for BJP’s stunning victory in Lok Sabha elections and called for use of ballot boxes, the Congress is planning to convene a meeting of the opposition parties to discuss the future course of action on EVMs after the budget session. “The Lok Sabha election in 2019 is a mystery, not history. We do not want EVMs. We want the ballot box to be brought back,” said Banerjee at her Kolkata rally on Sunday accusing BJP of winning the Lok Sabha polls by cheating- using EVMs, CRPF and Election Commission. Still trying to overcome the shock of a humiliating defeat, the Congress is hoping reciprocity from several opposition parties, including Trinamool Congress, to join the chorus of demanding the restoration of ballot papers in place of electronic voting in future elections. Echoing similar sentiments, Banerjee too has called for use of ballot papers in coming Panchayat and Municipal elections.

Full Article: Opposition parties plan big revolt against EVMs.

India: Ahead of state elections, Congress looks to amp up push for paper ballots | Aurangzeb Naqshbandi/Hindustan Times

The Congress is likely to convene a meeting of opposition parties after the budget session of Parliament ends to discuss their future course of action on the issue of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) that some say are susceptible to manipulation. After suffering a heavy defeat in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, in which it managed to win only 52 seats in the 543-member House, the party has decided to escalate its demand for the restoration of ballot papers to replace electronic voting in future elections. According to a Congress functionary, a group of party leaders recently met United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi and senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who has stepped down as president over the electoral rout, and asked them to push the demand in a big way. The functionary, who requested anonymity, said the party had not only received feedback from the ground but is “convinced” that “EVMs were manipulated” in the national elections, in which the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 303 seats. Past protests by opposition parties that EVMs were vulnerable to tampering have failed to convince the Election Commission (EC), which has rejected the allegations. The Supreme Court in April raised the physical counting of Electronic Voting Machines using a Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail (EVM-VVPATs) in constituencies from one to five on a plea by opposition parties, but in May turned down a petition for an increase in random checks to at least 50% EVMs.

Full Article: Ahead of state elections, Congress looks to amp up push for ballots | india news | Hindustan Times.

Japan: Internal affairs ministry to test online voting for overseas citizens | The Japan Times

The internal affairs ministry will test online voting for Japanese citizens living abroad in an effort to raise voter turnout among such people in elections. The ministry will conduct the test after Sunday’s House of Councilors election with a goal of introducing it as early as the next Upper House poll in 2022, officials said. Eligible voters will be able to enter the voting page using electronic devices by verifying their identity through registered My Number identification cards. To protect privacy, voting data will be sent encrypted to Japan, and personal information attached to the data will be deleted when votes are counted. Voting data left on voter devices will also be deleted. An expert panel set up by the ministry proposed the introduction of online voting in August last year to address low voter turnout, at around 20 percent, among Japanese citizens overseas. The low rates are believed to reflect a shorter voting period due to the need to send votes to Japan as well as the need to go to diplomatic missions where polling stations are set up.

Full Article: Japan to test online voting for overseas citizens | The Japan Times.

India: Revert to ballot papers, demand activists | Manan Kumar/DNA

A large number of civil rights groups including National Alliance for People’s Movement (NAPM) and Nation for Farmers (NFF) along with several political parties have decided to launch a nationwide people’s movement on August 9 to reject Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and bring back paper ballot in elections. “We will be starting it on the eve of Quit India movement with the slogan “EVM Bharat Chhodo, Ballot Paper Vapis Lao,” said Dr. Sunilam, convenor of NAPM. The two-day meeting participated by representatives of political parties discussed the shocking 2019 elections results that paled even the election results of 1977 when anger was at its height against the Indira Gandhi government.

Full Article: Revert to ballot papers, demand activists.

Philippines: Smartmatic still wants to be part of Philippine elections | Ralf Rivas/Rappler

Technology company Smartmatic remains optimistic that it will still be the government’s pick to be the provider of vote-counting machines (VCMs) for succeeding elections, despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s view that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) must end ties with them. Machines that reject ballots, transmission delays, and over-voting which eventually led to votes not being counted were just some of the problems encountered during the May 2019 elections. The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and the Comelec hosted a technology fair on Monday, July 15, to scout for possible alternatives to Smartmatic’s system. Despite the President’s criticism, Smartmatic showed up and presented hardware such as a direct recording electronic voting machine or touchscreen.

Full Article: Smartmatic still wants to be part of Philippine elections.

India: Raj Thackeray requests Election Commission to hold assembly polls by ballot paper | The Statesman

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray on Monday wrote to the Election Commission of India (ECI) regarding “restoring faith in the election process in the country”. Raj Thackeray has written, “Individuals have communicated their dissatisfaction with the manner in which elections are being conducted in the last few years and raised questions regarding EVMs. We request you to get back to ballot papers and appeal to have assembly election in Maharashtra with ballot papers only.” In July 2018, Raj Thackeray had alleged that the BJP had won the past elections by manipulating the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). “The EVMs had helped the BJP win the elections in the past. Otherwise, how can any candidate get zero votes in polls?” he had questioned while speaking to reporters. Representatives of 21 opposition parties led by TDP chief and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu had met the Election Commission raising concerns over the electronic voting machines (EVMs) and VVPAT slips two days ahead of counting of votes for the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections. The opposition parties have been complaining about EVM malfunctioning and demanding the use of ballot papers even before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Full Article: Raj Thackeray requests EC to hold assembly polls by ballot paper.

India: Supreme Court refuses to entertain plea questioning electronic voting machine use in elections | ANI

The Supreme Court on Friday refused to entertain a plea which questioned the use of electronic voting machines (EVM) in polls and sought the cancellation of recently concluded Lok Sabha elections. A Bench headed by Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman heard the public interest litigation (PIL) filed by advocate Manohar Lal Sharma challenging the use of EVMs in polls. “What are you asking for Mr Sharma? You want us to set aside the entire Lok Sabha elections?” said Justice Nariman refusing to interfere with the petition, terming it “devoid of merits”.

Full Article: SC refuses to entertain PIL questioning EVM use in elections | Business Standard News.

India: Supreme Court seeks Election Commission response on electronic voting machine malfunction complaint | Outlook

The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Election Commission to respond on a plea seeking to remove the provision which criminalizes the reporting of malfunctioning of the electronic voting machines, if proven false. A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gagoi asked the poll panel to file its reply within two weeks. The court was hearing a plea filed by advocate Sunil Ahya which has sought liberty to register complaint related with EVM malfunctioning. Ahya said that on August 14 2013, the Conduct of Elections Rules, was amended to insert a new rule 49MA to prescribe a procedure to be followed in case of a complaint realted to the EVM. Ahya told the court that Rule 49MA of the Conduct of Election Rules with Section 177 of Indian Penal Code criminalizes the reporting of malfunctioning of EVM and voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT), which may not be fair and just to charge a voter reporting such a complaint.

Full Article: SC seeks EC response on EVM malfunction complaint.

Philippines: Supreme Court junks pleas on source code review in vote counting machines | Benjamin Pulta/The Inquirer

The Supreme Court (SC) has turned down petitions, which seek to compel the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to allow groups to open and review the source code in the vote counting machines (VCMs) as provided for under Republic Act 9369 or the Election Modernization Act of 1997. In an banc decision dated April 30 and released Monday, the High Court likewise denied the motion of the petitioners — Sen. Richard Gordon, the Bagumbayan-NVP Movement Inc. and Tanggulang Demokrasya — to hold former Comelec chair Sixto Brilliantes Jr. in contempt for his failure to comply with his commitments to the Court during the May 8, 2013 oral arguments to, among others, make the source code available for review and to grant more time to the parties to comply with the requirements to do so. “In deciding that Chairman Brillantes is not liable for indirect contempt, the Court focuses solely on the undertakings that were directly promised to the Court, not those which the petitioner feels were promised,” the SC added. The High Court dismissed on the ground of “being moot and academic” while their plea to cite Brilliantes for contempt was junked for “utter lack of merit.”

Full Article: SC junks pleas on source code review in vote counting machines | Philippine Canadian Inquirer.