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The Political Effect of Electronic Voting in India

India, being the world's largest democracy, conducts massive electoral exercises that involve millions of voters and numerous political parties. The introduction of EVMs in the Indian electoral system aimed to streamline the voting process, eliminate manual errors, reduce the time taken for counting votes, and enhance the overall efficiency of elections. However, the adoption of electronic voting has not been without its challenges and controversies, raising questions about its political effects and implications. The evolution of electronic voting in India serves as a backdrop for understanding its political effects.

The paper discusses the introduction and adoption of EVMs, highlighting their key features and functioning. It also examines the challenges faced during the implementation process and the subsequent improvements made to address these concerns. This contextual understanding sets the stage for a deeper exploration of the political implications of electronic voting.

One significant area of study is the impact of electronic voting on electoral processes and efficiency. By analysing voting time, logistics, and the reduction of human errors and counting time, the research examines how EVMs have streamlined the electoral process, providing insights into the efficiency gains achieved through electronic voting

Electronic Voting Machine

Electronic Voting Machine also known as EVM is an electronic machine that is used for voting to either aid or take care of the chores of casting and counting of votes.
An EVM is designed by the two units:
  1. The Control Unit
  2. The Balloting Unit
The control unit of EVM is kept with the presiding officer or the polling officer on the other hand the balloting unit is kept within the voting compartment for electors to cast their votes.

This is done to ensure that the polling officers verify your identity. With the EVM instead of issuing a ballot paper, the polling officer will press the Ballot button which enables the voter to cast their vote. A list of candidate's names with symbols will be available on the machine with a blue button next to it. The voter can press the button next to the candidate's name they wish to vote for.

Evolution Of Electronic Voting In India

The evolution of electronic voting in India marks a significant milestone in the country's electoral history. The adoption and implementation of electronic voting machines (EVMs) have revolutionized the electoral process, introducing technological advancements that aim to streamline voting procedures and enhance the integrity of elections.

The introduction of EVMs in India can be traced back to the 1980s when the Election Commission of India (ECI) initiated efforts to explore alternative voting methods. The first experimental use of EVMs took place in 1982 in a by-election in Kerala. The successful trial paved the way for the gradual implementation of electronic voting across the country.

In India, the evolution of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) has been a significant part of electoral reforms aimed at improving the efficiency, transparency, and integrity of the voting process.

Here's a timeline of the evolution of EVMs in India:
  1. Introduction of EVMs (1982):
    The Election Commission of India (ECI) first introduced EVMs in a limited capacity for experimental purposes in 1982. These early EVMs were developed by the state-owned Electronics Corporation of India (ECIL) and Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL).
  2. Pilot Projects (1998-2000):
    EVMs were tested in select constituencies during the 1998 by-elections and subsequently in the 1999 general elections. These pilot projects were conducted to evaluate the feasibility and effectiveness of EVMs in Indian elections.
  3. Widespread Adoption (2004):
    Based on the success of the pilot projects, the ECI decided to adopt EVMs nationwide for all parliamentary and assembly elections starting from the 2004 general elections. This marked a significant milestone in the use of EVMs in Indian elections.
  4. VVPAT Introduction (2013):
    To enhance transparency and provide a verifiable paper trail, the Voter-Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) system was introduced in 2013. Under this system, a paper slip containing the selected candidate's name, symbol, and serial number is printed and displayed to the voter for verification. The slip is then deposited in a sealed box, which can be used for auditing or manual recounting if necessary.
  5. Security Enhancements:
    EVMs used in India have undergone continuous security enhancements to ensure the integrity of the voting process. This includes the use of tamper-proof designs, encryption techniques to secure data, and strict protocols for the storage and transportation of EVMs.
  6. Accessibility Features:
    EVMs in India have been modified to include accessibility features for voters with disabilities. Braille labels, tactile interfaces, and audio ballots have been introduced to enable visually impaired voters to cast their votes independently.
  7. Technological Upgrades:
    Over the years, EVMs in India have witnessed technological upgrades to improve their performance and functionality. This includes the use of advanced microcontrollers, better display screens, and improved battery life. The ECI has also explored the use of wireless communication and real-time result transmission in certain elections to expedite the counting process.
  8. Continuous Evaluation:
    The ECI regularly evaluates the performance of EVMs and takes feedback from political parties, experts, and the public. Mock polls, training programs, and awareness campaigns are conducted to familiarize voters and election officials with the functioning of EVMs.

It's important to note that the ECI takes measures to address concerns raised by stakeholders regarding the use of EVMs. Public demonstrations, mock polls, and transparency initiatives have been undertaken to build trust in the EVMs and the electoral process as a whole.

Advantages Of Evm In E-Democracy.

  1. Enhancing the Credibility of the Electoral Process:
    One of the primary objectives of electronic voting is to enhance the credibility of the electoral process by minimizing human errors, reducing the scope for manipulation, and providing accurate and reliable results. EVMs eliminate the possibility of invalid or improperly marked ballots, as they only allow voters to cast valid votes within the predefined options. This reduces the likelihood of disputes and challenges to the legitimacy of election outcomes. Additionally, EVMs provide a built-in electronic audit trail, which allows for the verification and reconciliation of votes. The Election Commission of India (ECI) has implemented the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) system, which generates a printed paper receipt displaying the voter's choices. This receipt can be reviewed by the voter to ensure accuracy before being securely stored for potential audits or recounts. The introduction of VVPAT adds an additional layer of transparency and allows for independent verification of electronic voting results.
  2. Reduction in Electoral Fraud and Malpractices:
    Electronic voting has been instrumental in reducing electoral fraud and malpractices that were more prevalent in traditional paper-based voting systems. EVMs significantly minimize the scope for ballot stuffing, booth capturing, and manipulation of vote counts during the counting process. The use of technology in voting and tabulation reduces human intervention, thereby reducing the opportunities for tampering or unauthorized manipulation of votes. Moreover, EVMs employ encryption and secure data transmission protocols to ensure the integrity of the voting process. The storage and transmission of votes electronically, coupled with stringent security measures, make it difficult for unauthorized parties to interfere with the voting data. This helps safeguard the sanctity of the electoral process and maintains public trust in the integrity of the results.
  3. Accuracy and Fairness in Results:
    Electronic voting has the potential to provide accurate and fair election results by minimizing errors and biases. EVMs eliminate the manual counting of votes, reducing the chances of errors and discrepancies that can occur during the traditional tabulation process. The use of electronic systems ensures consistent and accurate vote counting, thereby reducing the likelihood of miscounts or misinterpretations. Additionally, EVMs contribute to fairness in elections by providing equal opportunities for all candidates and political parties. By eliminating the possibility of ballot box tampering or manipulation, electronic voting systems create a level playing field and promote fair competition. Each vote is treated equally, regardless of the voter's social status, gender, or background, ensuring a more equitable democratic process.
  4. Enhancing Trust in the Electoral Process:
    Electronic voting systems, such as EVMs, aim to enhance trust in the electoral process by ensuring accuracy, transparency, and fairness. The use of technology reduces the scope for human errors and manipulation, creating a perception of increased reliability and credibility. The elimination of manual counting and the introduction of tamper-proof security measures in EVMs provide assurance to voters that their votes will be accurately recorded and counted. Furthermore, the implementation of measures like the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) system has contributed to increased trust in electronic voting. The ability of voters to independently verify their votes through printed receipts creates a sense of transparency and accountability. VVPAT has been instrumental in building confidence among voters, political parties, and other stakeholders by allowing for the auditing and verification of electronic voting results.

Challenges With Electronic Voting Machine

The adoption of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in India has not been without its share of challenges and controversies. While electronic voting systems offer various benefits, they have also faced criticism and raised concerns among stakeholders.

Understanding these challenges and controversies is essential to address them and ensure the integrity and effectiveness of the electoral process.
  1. Security Concerns:
    One of the primary challenges associated with electronic voting is the issue of security. Critics argue that EVMs may be vulnerable to hacking or tampering, potentially compromising the accuracy and integrity of the voting process. Concerns have been raised regarding the security of the hardware, software, and transmission of data associated with EVMs. To address these concerns, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has implemented security measures such as tamper-proof seals, stringent storage protocols, and encryption techniques. Independent audits and regular testing of EVMs are conducted to identify and rectify any vulnerabilities. However, ongoing scrutiny and continuous improvement in security practices are essential to mitigate potential risks and maintain public trust.
  2. Lack of Voter Confidence:
    Controversies surrounding electronic voting have sometimes resulted in a lack of confidence among voters. Various factors contribute to this lack of confidence, including misinformation, doubts about the reliability of EVMs, and concerns about the transparency of the voting process. Instances of malfunctioning machines, allegations of tampering, or doubts about the accuracy of results can undermine public trust in the electoral system. Addressing these challenges requires proactive efforts from the Election Commission and other stakeholders. Public awareness campaigns, transparency in the functioning of EVMs, and increased opportunities for public scrutiny can help build voter confidence. Engaging with experts, civil society organizations, and political parties in dialogue and consultations can foster trust and address concerns effectively.
  3. Accessibility and Inclusivity:
    While electronic voting has the potential to enhance accessibility and inclusivity, challenges remain in ensuring equitable access for all citizens. The digital divide, limited technology infrastructure in certain areas, and lack of digital literacy can exclude certain segments of society from participating in electronic voting. This raises concerns about disenfranchisement and unequal access to the democratic process. Efforts must be made to bridge the digital divide and provide adequate infrastructure and training to ensure equitable access to electronic voting. The Election Commission should collaborate with relevant authorities to ensure that remote and underserved areas have the necessary technology and connectivity. Moreover, promoting digital literacy and conducting outreach programs can empower citizens to engage in the electronic voting process confidently.
  4. Lack of Paper Trail and Auditability:
    One area of controversy surrounding electronic voting is the lack of a verifiable paper trail in certain instances. While EVMs with Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) systems provide a printed receipt for voters to verify their choices, concerns have been raised about the scope and reliability of the paper trail. Some argue for the implementation of mandatory paper ballots alongside electronic voting to ensure a robust audit trail and enhance transparency. Balancing the advantages of electronic voting, such as efficiency and speed, with the need for a verifiable paper trail is an ongoing challenge. Striking the right balance to ensure transparency while leveraging the benefits of electronic voting requires careful deliberation and continuous improvements in technology and processes.

Case Study
Case Study: EVM Controversy in India's 2019 General Elections
The general elections in India are the largest democratic exercise in the world, and EVMs have been used extensively since 2004. However, during the 2019 general elections, the use of EVMs became a subject of intense debate and controversy.

Political Allegations:
Several opposition parties, most notably the Indian National Congress (INC) and several regional parties, raised concerns about the reliability and integrity of EVMs. They alleged that the EVMs could be tampered with or manipulated, leading to doubts about the accuracy of the election results. These parties claimed that the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) was exploiting the EVMs to gain an unfair advantage.

Demand for Paper Ballot Verification:
Opposition parties demanded the reintroduction of paper ballots as an alternative to EVMs, arguing that the traditional system provided more transparency and verifiability. They emphasized the need for a Voter-Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) for every EVM, where a printed paper slip would be verified by the voter before being deposited in a secure box. The opposition parties believed that VVPATs would enhance confidence in the electoral process.

Election Commission's Response:
The Election Commission of India (ECI), responsible for conducting elections, vehemently defended the integrity of EVMs and refuted the allegations of tampering. The ECI highlighted the multiple layers of security, including strict protocols for the storage, transportation, and sealing of EVMs, as well as the presence of election officials and political party representatives during the entire process. The ECI maintained that EVMs were robust, secure, and tamper-proof.

Supreme Court Intervention:
The controversy eventually reached the Supreme Court of India. The court directed the ECI to increase the random matching of VVPAT slips with EVM results from one booth per constituency to five. This move was seen as an attempt to address concerns and instill more confidence in the electoral process. The court also dismissed petitions challenging the use of EVMs and upheld their legality.

Outcome and Impact:
The 2019 general elections proceeded with the use of EVMs, and the BJP emerged as the victorious party, winning a significant majority. The controversy surrounding EVMs gradually subsided after the elections, although some political parties and activists continued to express reservations about their reliability.

Electronic voting in India has faced challenges and controversies related to security concerns, lack of voter confidence, accessibility and inclusivity, and the need for a robust audit trail. Addressing these challenges requires a multi-faceted approach, including stringent security measures, transparent processes, public awareness campaigns, and efforts to bridge the digital divide.

Continuous engagement with stakeholders, openness to dialogue, and incorporating feedback are vital to address concerns and ensure a trustworthy and inclusive electoral system. While challenges and controversies persist, proactive efforts from policymakers, in collaboration with stakeholders, can address these issues and shape a future where electronic voting continues to strengthen democracy and uphold the principles of fair and free elections in India.


Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Garvita Garg
Awarded certificate of Excellence
Authentication No: JU318133473683-30-0623

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