The recent controversy on EVM vulnerability revolves around the possibility of tampering the EVM by fixing a gadget inside which can be wirelessly manipulated from outside.

The Critics of the EVM point out that it takes less than 2 minutes to make the alterations and once done it is possible to take control of the machine from outside and make changes even after it has been tested.

The GOI officials maintain that this is only a theoretical possibility and large scale manipulation is unthinkable since each EVM contains only a small number of votes and it would not be worthwhile for any candidate to use this method for altering the results.

The GOI stand is that even if EVM is not tamper proof, it is immaterial in the context of conducting free and fair elections. On the other hand, the critics point out that justice should not only be done but appear to have been done and If EVMs can be technically tampered with, political pressures can be brought to manipulate any number of machines.

It is difficult to say any one of these parties is wrong.

A decision in favour of any one of them would amount to a compromise and would not be a perfect solution.

I have been therefore advocating that it is essential for EVMs to be first of all Cyber Law Compliant and then it should be considered if it is possible to build in a kind of verifiability to the voting system through some kind of a paper trail as demanded by the critics.

Having a paper trail the way US is doing may involve printing a “Voting Slip” which drops into a sealed box after voting and kept sealed unless ordered to be opened by a Court in an election review petition.

The election commission officials who appeared on CNN-IBN on 25th expressed the opinion that any form of having a paper trail would compromise the confidentiality and hence should not be considered.

If therefore we can find a solution that maintains a paper trail but does not compromise on the confidentiality, I suppose that the solution should be acceptable to both the current warring groups.

Additionally people like the undersigned want the system to be Cyber Law Compliant.

I would like to present such a solution here in below which satisfies all these three segments for consideration for all the parties concerned including Mr Subramanya Swamy who is in the forefront of the current movement.

The Solution:

1. Replace the front of the EVM with a touch sensitive screen

2.Load the ballot paper so as to appear as an image on the screen. It should contain a serial number or a running digital clock which shows the time say in the top right corner.

3.When the voter exercises his option and presses on any part of the name/symbol or the adjoining cell, a picture of the voting mark (Circle with X inside) appears on the adjoining cell. At this point of time the image resembles a printed ballot paper after casting of the vote.

4. When the voter presses a “Confirmation” by pressing the name/symbol once again, the ballot will be taken as confirmed, the image will be animated to change into a folded ballot paper and dropped into a box. This gives the confidence to the illiterate voter that his vote has been correctly cast. (Animation is only for the dramatic effect and has no legal significance).

5. Once the vote is confirmed, the system will freeze the image of the completed ballot paper including the time on display and calculate the hash value of the document.

6.The EVM will have a built in printer roll which is within the sealed part of the EVM. The hash value of the cast vote would be printed on the roll sequentially along with the time of vote. The roll even after printing remains inside. It will just have one line printing per vote containing the hash value.

Now we shall see how this system satisfies the three parties contesting the current system.

From the Cyber Law Compliance angle it has been explained in detail by the undersigned in his earlier article (http://www.naavi.org/cl_editorial_04/edit_03_mayl_04_02.htm ) that a paper document such as the front side of the EVM in the present practice cannot be linked effectively with the button which takes an electronic signal is addressed since the entire ballot paper along with the portion where the voter affixes his symbol is a single undivided electronic document.

The frozen ballot view gives the voter a clear picture of what is happening and there is a satisfaction for the illiterate voter.

The printed paper roll provides the verifiability.

Using of a hash of the ballot paper with time component makes each hash different and also makes the vote confidential.

When it is necessary for the vote to be verified on Court orders, the vote at the given time has to be simulated and hash generated again to compare the two hashes.

This is done through the testing mode of the software where the ballot paper is reproduced and time is given as an input.

(The voter alone knows to whom he has voted and if a few random persons are selected to confide to whom they have voted and the voting is simulated, the machine can be tested at any point of time for its integrity). 

If the GOI is interested, this device can be produced even in association with BEL under the supervision of the BEL engineers themselves. The source code to be embedded with the chip has to be modified along with the touch screen top.

Yes there will be some costs to replace the huge stock of EVMs presently held by the Government.

But it is worth the effort.

Comments are welcome.

Naavi Aug 26 2010

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