Technology seems to be tripping up the electoral process in the world’s largest democracy with disturbing frequency. Of late, two key issues have threatened the right to franchise of many of India’s 800 million voters. One is a software that seems to be marking genuine voters’ names for deletion from the electoral rolls. The other is electronic voting machines (EVMs), which some believe are vulnerable to tampering. While complaints relating to these issues have done the rounds for years, the latest bout, involving a large number of such grievances, was sparked during the recent elections to five Indian state legislative assemblies. The most egregious complaints occurred in the south-central state of Telangana. On polling day (Dec.07) in the state, many voters were shocked to find their names missing from the electoral rolls. This followed the election commission of India’s (ECI) admission weeks before that up to 2.2 million names had been deleted by its software for being supposed duplicates.Some people, including international badminton ace Jwala Gutta, tweeted #whereismyvote in frustration.
Articles about voting issues in the Republic of India.
Former chief election commissioner S Y Qureshi on Sunday ruled out the possibility of online voting in India in near future. Online voting is not feasible here because of reasons related to security and integrity. “People can be put at gunpoint to vote for anyone or can be bribed,” Qureshi said, while speaking at a programme, “Mission 2019 — No Voter Left Behind”. The programme was organised by the Centre for Research and Debates in Development Policy. The former CEC asked all voters to check their names on the voters’ list. He said a voter card doesn’t ensure one’s voting right. “Because names can be deleted for wrong reasons or due to computer errors.” He said that while he was the CEC, he had faced an uncomfortable situation becasue Arvind Kejriwal’s name was not on the voters’ list. However, it was found out that his name was listed in a different constituency where he used to stay earlier and finally he was able to cast his vote.
India: US scientists ‘hack’ electronic voting machines ahead of polls in 5 states: Report | Business Today
The Election Commission of India announced the dates for Assembly polls in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Rajasthan and Telangana last week. Along with the dates, the poll regulating authority in India announced that VVPAT-enabled electronic voting machines will be used during these polls. Additionally, the country is looking at an eventful General Elections in 2019. Now, with barely a month left before states go to elections, scientists at the University of Michigan claim to have found a way to ‘hack’ Indian EVMs. A video posted online showed the scientists at the US university supposedly manipulating voting results on an electronic voting machine (EVM) via mobile text messages after attaching a home-made device to the machine, a BBC News report said.
India: Fearing breach, Election Commission moves to secure cyber walls for 2019 | The Indian Express
Amid allegations and fear of cyber-meddling in polls abroad, the Election Commission (EC) has initiated an unprecedented drive to protect its voter registration database and office networks from unauthorised influence and access during the Lok Sabha polls next year. A chief information security officer in Delhi and a cyber security nodal officer in each state; regulations on cyber security exclusively for the Commission; third-party security audit of all poll-related applications and websites; workshops to train officers in cyber hygiene; and a proposal to recognise elections as ‘critical information’ under the IT Act, 2000. These are the key steps taken by the EC over the last nine months to secure elections from cyber threats, The Indian Express has learnt.
India: Old electronic voting machines destroyed, buyers have to seek election commission nod | Hindustan Times
The election commission (EC) does not provide or sell electronic voting machines (EVMs) that are no longer in use to any local body, state or university to conduct elections nor can buyers procure machines from the manufacturers without the consent of the poll panel. Officials aware of the issue said on Friday that all obsolete machines –that are older than 15 years—are sent back to the manufacturers where these are destroyed as per protocol in the presence of EC officials. “A decision was taken in 2010 that all machines that are discontinued will not be lent out to anyone; because when the machines were given earlier, the users did not stick to the necessary protocol for use. When glitches occurred thereafter, there was confusion and the EC ended up getting blamed, so a decision was taken that all EVMs that are discontinued after 15 years of use will be destroyed,” an official requesting anonymity said. The EC’s clarification comes in the wake of allegations that the machines used during the Delhi University Students’ Union (DUSU) elections, the results of which were announced on Thursday, were faulty.
India: Supreme Court seeks Election Commission response on ‘private parties handling’ electronic voting machines | The Economic Times
The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought the Election Commission’s response on an allegation that electronic voting machines (EVMs) used in the last Assembly polls in Uttarakhand were handled by private parties, leaving them open to possible tampering. The petition, filed by a resident of Uttarakhand, argued that EVMs and VVPATs (voter verified paper audit trails) were handled by private parties in breach of the commission’s rules and in disregard of the recommendations of a committee which said physical contact was the only way these machines could be tampered with. The case, before a bench led by Justice AK Sikri, was argued by senior advocate Kapil Sibal. Citing RTI (right to information) replies, the petition claimed that the poll panel had conceded to have requisitioned the help of private security, transportation and other personnel during the elections.
Political parties were divided on reverting back to ballot paper in place of EVMs in elections and holding simultaneous polls to the Lok Sabha and Assemblies at an all-party meeting convened by the Election Commission that also discussed state funding. The meeting of all the recognised national and state parties was convened to discuss the fidelity of electoral rolls, election expenditure regulation and inclusion of print media in the election campaign silence period. Chief Election Commissioner A.K Rawat said the Commission would take a call on all the issues raised by parties including on EVMs and ballot paper, integrity of electoral rolls and ceiling on expenditure by political parties. “There will be a satisfactory solution to the issues,” he told reporters after the meeting.
Several opposition parties and ruling NDA constituent Shiv Sena on Monday pushed for reverting back to ballot paper in place of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and opposed simultaneous elections at a meeting convened by the Election Commission which also saw some parties pitching for state funding of elections. The Shiv Sena differed with its ally BJP to support the polls through ballot paper and the CPI-M too differed from other opposition parties and said it was not for returning to the old system of holding elections. It sought more safeguards in EVMs. Chief Election Commissioner O.P. Rawat said after the meeting that the poll panel will take a call on all the issues raised by parties including on EVMs and ballot paper, integrity of electoral rolls and ceiling on expenditure by political parties.
India: After US, Indian elections may be the next target of Russia: Oxford Professor | Economic Times
After allegedly ‘meddling’ with the 2016 US Presidential Election, Russian hackers may soon make their way to the upcoming general elections in India, an Oxford University internet studies professor says. Philip N. Howard, a professor of Internet studies at the Oxford Internet institute, made the statement during a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee on foreign Influence on Social media platforms. Howard believes that media in countries like India and Brazil will be targeted to interfere in the election process. “I would say that the greater concern would be amongst the media institutions in our democratic allies. I believe that the Russians have moved from targeting us, in particular, to Brazil and India; other enormous democracies that will be running elections in the next few years,” Howard said. “The United States actually has the most professionalised media in the world. It’s learned certainly to evaluate their sources and no longer report tweets as is given,” Howard said.
Those infatuated with the technology-driven Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) fail to realise that elections are synonymous with democracy and are meant to translate the consent of the citizens into governmental authority. To achieve this, elections should be held in strict conformity with democracy principles. … EVMs that are being presently used to conduct elections may be devices of technology excellence. But the moot question is ~ do they comply with the principles of democracy? The answer is: No. The Federal Constitutional Court of Germany in a landmark judgment in March 2009 held the use of EVMs unconstitutional if they do not comply with the ‘Democracy Principles’. The Court did not strike down the EVM ,but left it to the government/election authority to determine whether or not the machines comply with the principles of democracy. These authorities determined that EVMs do not and went back to the ballot paper. Many other countries followed.