Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi on Friday said that all future elections will use the voter-verifiable paper audit trail method, after meeting representatives of several political parties to discuss Electronic Voting Machine tampering.
He also said the EC will give all political parties the opportunity to demonstrate that EVMs in recent elections were tampered with or that EVMs can be tampered with even with the safeguards in place, reported PTI.
“Although use of VVPAT [voter verifiable paper audit trail system] with EVMs will ensure total credibility and transparency and put to rest all controversy, the Commission will, after today’s meeting, hold a challenge,” Zaidi said. “You should be convinced that the Election Commission has no favourites...we maintain equidistance from all parties and groups. It is our constitutional and moral duty to stand dead centre of the circle drawn around us by 56 political parties [seven national and 49 State recognised parties].”
Zaidi also said that a percentage of vote slips from VVPATs from random booths would be subject to counting in future polls.
Earlier on Friday, the Election Commission on Friday met representatives of 42 political parties to discuss the alleged vulnerabilities of EVMs. Reports had said the EC also decided to hold a hackathon, in which computer experts would try to tamper with the devices.
A day before the meeting, the Aam Aadmi Party had upped its campaign against the use of EVMs in polls and demanded that an all-party committee be formed under the EC’s supervision and be given access to the voting machines used in recent elections, according to PTI.
Friday’s meeting comes in the wake of a demonstration by software engineer-turned-AAP legislator, Saurabh Bharadwaj, during which he had sought to suggest that all it takes to tamper with an EVM is a change in its motherboard. On Tuesday, Bharadwaj had demonstrated his point on a “lookalike” gadget in the Delhi Assembly. “All it takes is 90 seconds,” the AAP leader had claimed.
The Election Commission, however, rejected Bharadwaj’s charge and said anyone could tweak a “lookalike” gadget. In a statement, the polling monitor said any voting machine besides their own can be made to seem as though they have been hacked.
The controversy over EVM manipulation began after the results of the Assembly elections in five states were declared on March 11. While the EC has maintained that the voting machines are tamper-proof, Opposition parties have made repeated calls for the polling monitor to switch back to using the paper ballot system. On April 11, as many as 16 Opposition parties had written to the commission alleging that the tampering of EVMs had created a “deep-seated trust deficit” on their reliability.