Voting is an important part of democracy as it provides people an opportunity to voice their opinion and choose what they believe in. There are several different methods of voting in use around the world. The most common voting method uses paper ballots on which voters mark their preferences. Election officials manually count the ballots after the polls closes and in the event of a dispute the votes are recounted.
With growth in number of voters and increasing complexity of system, technology brought in to use to make the process more efficient. One of the most used alternative to ballots papers is the Electronics Voting machine or EVM. Though the process involved in the device vary from country to country, a basic EVM consists of two units, control unit and balloting unit joined by a cable. Voter presses the button on the balloting unit to choose the preferred candidate. The control unit controls the ballot units, stores voting counts and displays the results on 7 segment LED displays. The devices have preloaded operating program which can’t be altered. Once the voting process is over, the Polling Officer presses the ‘Close’ Button which prevents the EVM from accepting further votes. The Balloting Unit is then disconnected from the Control Unit and at the time of counting of votes, the results are displayed by pressing the ‘Result’ button.
Sounds like a great idea. But issues like initial investment, security features and acceptance of technology have been debatable. So let’s see if it actually make sense to replace the paper ballots with electronic machines?
Let’s check some facts. One of the obvious benefit is saving of stationary which not only cuts cost but also have positive impact on environment. It is estimated that in a populous country like India, eleven thousand metric tonnes of paper was used every time there was an election in the country which is saved by replacing ballots with EVMs. Though the machines cost higher, it was more than neutralized by the savings in the matter of production and printing of ballot papers, transportation, storage and also reduction in the counting staff and the remuneration involved.
Also the voting process can be much faster. Irrespective of number of voters, the results can be declared within a couple of hours as compared to 20-30 hours on conventional systems. Also it can be recounted easily whenever required.
Invalid votes which is a big challenge in ballot markings can be reduced significantly as there are much less incidences of invalid votes, i. e. less than 0.02% in case if EVMs.
With all the remarkable advantages it’s obvious to say the system is a fabulous alternative and it should replace the outdated paper system everywhere. However no method is 100% fool proof and one of the major topic of debate is it’s security efficiency. Where some countries are using it successfully and some are in the process of piloting the machines, there are a few of them who discontinued the machines over security risks.
So can the machine be hacked and the stored results be altered? Well, hacking would require an EVM to be connected to Internet. But as the device is a standalone unit, so communicating to EVM is not possible through network.
But that doesn’t make it 100% secure. Several sources have demonstrated successful ways to tamper with the device. One of the most common idea is to insert a small chip with a Bluetooth connection which controls the display unit. The panel can be controlled with a mobile device which will override the result in machines memory. However, it may not seem possible that such chips can be inserted in lakhs of voting machines. Also, this kind of tampering will have to involve hundreds of people at different stages—including various centre and state officials—which makes it very difficult to keep the tampering secret.
Moreover the ballot paper system is not free from security threats either and has seen worse form of tampering, bogus votes and booth capturing. As we know the ‘System’ is comprised of Technology, Process and People! If we are required to test the robustness of the system all the three needs to be looked upon!
What according to you is the most effective method of voting? Suggest your views in the comment section. Subscribe our channel and click on the bell button and be the first to watch all our exciting new infographics videos.