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In a democracy, the integrity of electoral processes is paramount. In a tech-driven world, ensuring the security of voting systems becomes a critical challenge. India has taken significant strides in this direction by introducing EVMs and VVPATs. From a tech and systemic PoV, these measures underscore its commitment to safeguarding the electoral process‘ sanctity.

India’s EVMs, introduced in the 1990s, were initially met with scepticism. But they have evolved, incorporating state-of-the-art technology to withstand tampering. One key feature that renders them tamper-proof is their standalone nature. Unlike connected systems vulnerable to hacking, EVMs operate in isolation, minimising the risk of external interference. Absence of internet connectivity, USB ports, Bluetooth connectivity or any external communication interfaces adds a layer of security fundamental to their reliability.

Software and hardware of EVMs undergo rigorous testing and certification processes. EC collaborates with independent testing agencies to ensure these machines meet stringent security standards. Regular software updates and security patches are implemented to address potential vulnerabilities, and the source code is kept confidential to prevent unauthorised access.

Beyond the tech, systemic design of India’s electoral process adds another layer of protection. A decentralised electoral system and streamlined election observers augment responsibility and oversight. This prevents a single point of failure and ensures that any attempts at manipulation would require coordinated efforts across diverse stakeholders, making it significantly more challenging.

Embedded transparency is another critical aspect. Parties and candidates are provided opportunities to scrutinise and challenge the functioning of EVMs during pre-election mock polls. The process is open to public scrutiny, with representatives of parties present at various stages, including sealing, storage and transportation of EVMs. This transparency fosters trust and confidence in the electoral process.

Also, randomisation of EVM allocation and deployment, managed by EC, further mitigates risk. The unpredictable nature of EVM allocation ensures that any attempts to target specific machines for tampering become impractical.Introduction of VVPATs, first on a trial basis in Nagaland’s Noksen assembly constituency in 2013, followed by a pilot in 2014 general elections, has significantly enhanced transparency and verifiability. VVPATs generate a paper receipt for each vote cast, which the voter can visually verify through a transparent window before it is deposited into a sealed container. This tangible, paper-based audit trail reassures voters and provides a fail-safe mechanism for cross-verification in case of disputes or doubts.In the event of discrepancies between electronic count and paper trail, VVPATs take precedence. This redundancy ensures that even if the electronic system were compromised, physical paper records can be an independent and reliable source for auditing and validating the election results. EC orders of April 2019 making verification of VVPAT paper slips of 5% of randomly selected polling stations in each assembly segment further boosts voter confidence.

EVMs and VVPATs have earned recognition on the global stage. Several countries have expressed interest in adopting electoral technology. International organisations like the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) have commended India for its robust electoral practices. Collaboration with global experts, peer reviews and information-sharing mechanisms contribute to the continuous improvement of India’s electoral technology. Openness to learning from, and collaborating with, other nations underscores India’s commitment to maintaining highest standards of election integrity.

India’s journey in developing and fortifying EVMs and VVPATs reflects a determined commitment to uphold democratic ideals. Amalgamation of technological advancements, systemic safeguards and international collaboration have created a formidable defence against any attempts to compromise the integrity of the electoral process.

While challenges and concerns may persist, proactive measures taken by EC in continuously refining and enhancing electoral technology showcase a resilient and evolving system. As India continues to embrace tech innovations, EVMs and VVPATs stand as a testament to the country’s dedication to ensuring free, fair and tamper-proof elections.

A few years ago, a detailed analysis of security of EVMs in a Harvard course, ‘Security and Privacy’, concluded that the combination of tech and systemic safeguards makes EVMs completely trustworthy, impregnable and beyond manipulation. So, remnants of doubts and suspicions – welcome elements in gauging any system – regarding EVMs and VVPATs should be put to rest at this stage as the country gears up again for general elections.

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