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Issue of EVM tampering stands closed, says India's election panel after hackathon

The Election Commission has repeatedly said that EVMs are 'fully tamper-proof' Photograph: (Agencies)

WION New Delhi, India Jun 03, 2017, 06.15 PM (IST)

After holding a four-hour long 'hackathon' to demonstrate that Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) cannot be rigged, the Election Commission of India, said on Saturday that the issue of tamperability of the machines stands closed.

In a post-event press conference, Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi maintained that the EVMs used by the EC are "non-tamperable" and with 100 per cent use of paper trail machines in all future elections the issue of tamperability of the machines "stands closed".

The Chief Election Commissioner also ruled out going back to the paper ballot system, saying paper trail machines will usher in more transparency in future elections.

"Once the EVMs are used with VVPATs (or paper trail machines) where a voter can see (cross check) the vote he has cast, it will usher in more transparency. Then there is no scope of going back to ballot (paper) system," he said.

Zaidi said the EC has already announced that in all future elections to Lok Sabha and state assemblies, VVPAT machines would be attached to all EVMs.

The process would begin with Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat polls later this year.

The AAP, which had said it would organise an EVM-hacking challenge in parallel with the one organised by the Election Commission today, said it will hold the exercise later.

The party has invited two government agencies which provide EVMs to the Election Commission - Bharat Electronics Limited and the Electronic Corporation of India Ltd - to participate in the challenge.

The AAP says it has not back-tracked from the challenge and has thrown open the floor to register for its hackathon.

The party will announce a "bigger and better" exercise than the one organised today by the poll body, spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj said.

The AAP had declined to participate in the EC exercise, saying the terms and conditions put by the poll body defeat the purpose of an EVM-hacking challenge. 

As many as 13 political parties questioned the reliability of the EVMs, but only two parties had accepted the poll panel's dare but they too opted out of the event held today (June 3).

Zaidi made it clear that there would be no such challenge in future to test the reliability of the electronic voting machines (EVMs) used by the poll-conducting body.

He said although the NCP and the CPI(M) reported at the challenge venue they backed out.

The CPI-M said it would not like to participate in the challenge.

The NCP decided to opt out after the Election Commission said it was unable to provide it the details with the details it had sought.

The NCP said the source of all their doubts had been the alleged problems with EVMs during civic body polls in Maharashtra. The Commission clarified that EVMs used by State Election Commission, Maharashtra for urban local bodies elections did not belong to it.

The party had asked for the memory number and battery number of the EVM four days in advance, party MP Vandana Chavan, who led the NCP team said. 

The NCP said it did not want to participate in any challenge but was only interested in an academic exercise.

An NCP representative submitted a letter saying they would not participate in the challenge because of non-provision of the information.

In the letter the representative also objected to the "last minute" change in the EVM selection protocol by asking them to select an EVM out of the list of 14 EVMs brought for the challenge.

The NCP has been extended another chance to return at a later date to hack the machines as an "academic exercise", the Chief Election Commissioner said.

The CPI(M) said it did not wish to participate in the challenge but only wanted a "demonstration of the entire process".

"A detailed demonstration of the entire process was given to them by our technical team...The CPI(M) team expressed complete satisfaction and suggested that to allay any such doubts the Commission should hold such demonstrations and awareness sessions with technical community proactively," Zaidi said in a statement.

The EC said since the machines were sealed, they could not be opened in the absence of party representatives, adding that the numbers could be accessed after opening the seals of the carry boxes at the time of the challenge.

The Election Commission had earlier refused to permit the Congress and the AAP from changing the motherboards and circuits of the Election Commission EVMs. The poll panel had said if this were to be allowed, the machines would not be the ECI-EVM but at best a "look alike".

The Commission also did not allow parties like the BJP and the CPI to observe the challenge, saying the framework does not allow anyone to witness the event as an observer.

The BSP and the AAP had alleged that the machines used in the recent assembly elections were tampered with and favoured the BJP.

Over a dozen opposition parties, including the Congress, the BSP, the SP, the Left, the DMK, the JDU had urged the EC in April to revert to the paper ballot system in future elections, saying tampering allegations have created "trust deficit" on the reliability of the voting machines.

(WION with inputs from PTI)


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