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Indian Democracy at Stake- EVM can be manipulated

Indian Democracy at Stake
EVM can be manipulated
There are three categories of people, who have an opinion on the issue of Electronic Voting Machine (EVM):
1.     Those who believe that EVM can be manipulated and have been manipulators in India (Example Individuals, those candidates who have lost elections, a few political organisations).
2.     Those who outrightly reject such a possibility (Election Commission and experts involved in designing the system)
3.     Those who believe EVMs can be manipulated but large-scale manipulation is not a practical proposition. The argument boils down to security in ‘Numbers’ (majority). This segment of society is the largest in number.
If the apprehension of 1 and 3 are correct then Indian democracy is in danger. If the EVMs are susceptible to manipulation, then it is likely that these will be manipulated. Let us scan the arguments propounded by each segment of society:
Category one
Technical arguments
Manipulations difficult to detect and correct
The technical reality is that every Electronic machine can be manipulated. All electronic machines are designed by humans, for manipulation. The real issue is who can manipulate a machine and who cannot. There cannot be a machine without an input and an output window, therefore, there is always a possibility of manipulating a chip or a microprocessor or a super computer.
In this age of electronics, when human beings can manipulate instruments sent to moon or mars, any machine and that too, architecturally as simple as EVM, can easily be manipulated sitting on earth. It is child’s play to design a cheap instrument, or program a laptop or even a cell phone, which can write and re-write on any chip either through direct connection or through remote operation.
There are many ways in which EVMs can be manipulated. A few of these have been explained in detail on Internet. These are easy to grasp and execute.
Individuals have actually demonstrated that by programming the EEPROM (the main chip known as ‘electrically erasable programmable read only memory’ fitted in the machine) the results of election could be pre-set and irrespective of how people vote the final results that the EVM shows are preprogramed. Depending upon the method these instructions could be given to EVMs at various points of time during the electoral process.
Remote control devices could be designed to manipulate EVMs, which will bypass all detection by electoral staff.
Easy to detect and correct
Simplest of all methods is to put a small piece of paper between the push button, designated for a specific candidate, and stop it from making electrical contact.
Polling booth officers cast vote in favour of a specific candidate, just after releasing a vote, and before the illiterate voter is asked to press the button.
 Experiential arguments
Most developed countries have rejected EVMs. The use of similar paperless DREs has been discontinued in California, Florida, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Germany.
There have been many complaints that the results have been manipulated.
Candidates and their supporters have refused to believe the results, (examples, recent UP and Gujarat elections)
Unbelievably, high voting percentage in constituencies and states. This phenomenon has been observed in the recent past. (UP and Gujarat, especially tribal areas)
Voters and observers have complained that people with laptops have entered the polling booth area (Gujarat elections).
Entire staff and polling agents are involved in subverting the election results.
 Category two
Technical Argument
Technically the EVM machines used in India are foolproof and hardwired. All concerns have been taken into account while designing it. The third-generation EVM machine design takes all concerns into account.
A large number of impartial government employees and representatives of political parties are involved in checking the EVMs before these are sealed for operation and voting begins.
Extensive training is given to polling booth officers by staff members of Election Commission. Because of the involvement of large number of staff members and poling agents large-scale rigging is not possible, without detection.
Experiential Argument
Only those who have lost elections have complaints about EVMs. (Could anyone ever think of a winner lodging a complaint? In the entire debate this is the most stupid argument.)
If it were so easy to manipulate machines then all parties or for that matter, individual candidates would have manipulated these in their favour.
If election results are being manipulated then the party in power will never lose elections.
 
Category Three
Most people that constitute this category have weak technical background and believe in experiential arguments put forward by the second category.
Additionally, they vehemently argue about the practical impossibility of a large-scale operation that would be required to manipulate EVMs to make a substantial difference in the final election results at state or national level.
Political pundits who experienced booth-capturing of the bygone era have not come out of that mind-set, and think that even in this era manipulation is not possible without large crowd of hooligans capturing the booth.
 Claims of secure Indian EVMs have been Challenged
Many experts, both national and international, have experimented with Indian EVMs and have shown that, even the third generation machines are not as secured as these are made out to be. Simple methods of manipulation have been suggested. For details see the attached article.
 Security in number is the strongest argument 
Let us, without going into technical details, for example, assume that the EVM machines could be manipulated by using a simple device such as laptop, electronic note book or a cellphone. It is argued that the number of people required to be bought (bribed, influenced) from within election commission’s network would be very large. Even if we suppose that the EVM could be manipulated from a remotely placed device, and bypass the security network of EC, it will require enormous number of trained-manpower to change the national results. The assumption here is that all EVMs in a constituency and in turn in all constituencies, are to be manipulated.
This surely, is not the case. Gone are the days when large manpower was required to capture just one booth and put every ones life in danger. Consider the following scenario:
 Agency A is given the task of manipulating the final national-election-results in favour of a party X. Let us say party Y and Z are the nearest rivals of X. It is obvious that Y and Z will change from constituency to constituency. Following are the steps that ‘A’ needs to take.
Step 1. Collect all the data of previous constituency wise voting pattern. Some databases give booth wise voting percentage distribution for each candidate. Mark the constituencies where Y and Z have won. Or X has lost.
Step 2. Administer a national sample survey to find out what changes have taken place in the last six years. This should be done a few months before the elections. The survey should generate booth level or EVM level data.
Step 3. Identify the booths where X is likely to lose for sure (this constitutes the first set of booths) and also identify the booths where X and its rivals (Y and Z) are going to get almost same number of votes (second set of booths). Keep the second set of booths for statistical analysis only if the first set of booths does not give desired results in step 4. Leave all those constituencies where X is going to win. These are of no interest.
Step 4. Select constituencies where Y or Z are going to defeat X with large margins, leave all those booths where X is going to get more votes compared to Y or Z.
Step 5. Identify those booths in these constituencies where Y or Z are going to get large numbers votes in their favour.
Step 6. Once this database is constructed, by applying statistical techniques, a minimum number of EVMs that need manipulation could be computed. Iterations which marginally change the number of votes in each EVM where X is likely to lose could give us the minimum number of EVMs that will make a significant difference at national level. If changing the number of votes in this set of EVM (booths) does not give desired results add a few booths from the second set where the fight is neck-to-neck. Change the number of votes in favour of X. Repeat the iteration to achieve desired results.
Step 7. Identify the minimum number EVMs to be manipulated (or Booths) on paper. Now agency ‘A’ is ready to properly identify EVMs to be manipulated and voting figures to be fed in each of these EVMs.
Step 8. In order to be doubly sure, repeat the survey only in those areas where voters are going to vote in favour of Y and Z.
 Step 9. If the exercise is done thoroughly and Y or Z are not likely to sweep the elections or are not riding a huge popularity wave, this number will not be more than 1-2% of all booths or EVMs. Precise number of vote that are to be stolen from Y and/or Z and shifted to the account of X could be calculated.
Step 10. ‘A’ must procure sufficient number of electronic devices for manipulating results in a given minimum number of EVMs. Though it is difficult to detect this meticulously worked out theft of votes, if the number of persons involved in the operation increases the risk of detection will increase. The risk of detection is directly proportional to the number of EVMs to be manipulated.
Step 11. ‘A’ should not attempt to rig all EVMs.
Step 12. ‘A’ should induct local youth from areas where results are to be manipulated.
Step 13. The youth should be trained in handling the remote machines.
Step 14. The youth trained may not be told the ultimate objective of the exercise. They may be given a computer or an electronic tablet or a cellphone and be instructed to interview voters or report from the polling booth for ten or fifteen minutes. Ensure that they are at the right place at the right time. The device may be pre-programmed to send signals to designated EVMs while the recruit is in the vicinity of the poling booth.
Step 15. If one machine and one person could cover more than one booth, ‘A’ must try to achieve that for arriving at minimum number of persons to be involved in the operation.
Step 16. Conduct a mock poll through a reputed agency. The poll should give ranges of results, which should include the final expected manipulated results. Feed it to media repeatedly. Create as much confusion as possible.
Step 17. Purchase channel’s time, newspaper’s space and correspondents to predict results that are predetermined (or in other words, have been worked out on paper).
The entire operation will cost a couple of hundred crores rupees in Indian conditions. If the plan, described above, can be operationalized, the Indian democracy is doomed.
 
Who would be interested in manipulation?
1.  All the candidates fighting the election (but it may not be economically viable for ‘A’ to undertake such an exercise for a single candidate)
2.  All political parties (the parties may not have expertise to run the entire exercise on their own, but may engage agency ‘A’)
3.  International and National Advertising agencies that specialize in advertising for political parties. (They are fit for undertaking such jobs for any other group, be it a political party or a country, this also fits in their business plan and will give extra credibility to their successful advertising campaign).
4.  Other countries. There is no reason to believe that other countries, developed or developing, friendly or unfriendly, will not be interested in manipulating results of Indian elections. CIA has been accused of manipulating governments and democracies all over the world by using money and firepower. It is their mandate to look after the interest of USA in other countries. They have been accused of many covert operations in India as well. If they can decide the fate of Indian democracy, they surely will. Why would China be not interested in deciding which party is in power in India.
The objective of this operation should not be to control all EVMs, but to control the final results or in other words Indian Democracy. If one party keeps wining elections everywhere the entire operation will be jeopardized. Manipulate results only where it is crucial.
 Way forward
A committee of experts must be constituted by the parliament. This committee must identify, may be, 20 groups of IT and electronic experts from IITs, DRDO, BARC, TIFR, ISRO, CSIR, etc. These groups should be given a one line mandate—change the results in EVM during actual poling without getting detected—each group should be provided with sufficient funds and support system that they ask for. The extent of funds cannot be an issue when Indian democracy is at stake, If no group is able to accomplish the mandate then we are safe, but if even one of them is able to manipulate just one EVM with out detection we should abandon EVMs and revert back to paper ballots as many countries have done.
 Zulekha Jabin
 

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