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EVMs, voting, India and Europe…. September 14, 2006

Posted by fredericknoronha in India.
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My friend Patrice Riemens, from the Netherlands, draws attention to a campaign against there against the dependence of computers in polling stations. Says the site, explaining the issue: “In The Netherlands almost 100% of the population casts their ballot on computers that are not protected against manipulation. The voting process is completely closed and election results cannot be independently verified.”

Patrice goes on to query: “I guess in India plans are also afoot to introduce them (modernity, blablabla). Any controversy or opposition? Please advice!

Here’s a 2004 article from Slate.com. And this is the Associated Press story written from Bangalore.

Here’s something sent to Goanet in April 2004, and a mystery about untailled votes from my part of India, that is Goa.

It’s strange how a few forwarded messages can actually spur off some interesting debate. As S.N.Rao commented:

Yikes! There does seem to be a reset button in the EVM specification. Apparently this is used to clear the results of the mock-poll before the actual voting begins – a process designed to assure the polling agents of all parties that the machine is indeed functional and with no previous votes registered. My mind boggles at the thought that such a fundamental process flaw was allowed to remain in the live system! Allowing the polling officer to RESET the system, thereby erasing all the votes polled is tantamount to criminal negligence. The equivalent in the old system would be to give the polling officer the key to the box and a means of restoring the seals so that there is NO evidence of the box having been opened, cleaned out and closed!! Not casting aspersions on the integrity of the polling officers, but assuming that one of them were to be compromised, its a simple matter, at the end of polling, to RESET and allow electronic ballot stuffing to the correct total of votes polled – viola – booth capturing in the electronic era. No safeguards in the EVM against that – the EVM is programmed to act on the RESET signal, the process authorises the polling officer to hit the button….is this merely oversight in the process design? Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

An interesting post on hacking electronic voting machines.

Something I’m trying to find in cyberspace — but can’t — is a very probably scenario that someone painted about an easy way to program an EVM into fraud… very sophisticated but very simple. It involved, say, getting all your supporters out to vote in the first hour of polling, and programming the machine in such a way that the candidate with the largest number of votes in the first sixty minutes is shown as winning by a landslide! So one wouldn’t even have to worry about where your symbol is placed on the EVM. You’d just need to be privy to one tiny secret: get all your supporters out to vote in the first hour (when there are few persons voting in any case). Not saying this happens; but it could!

PS: The relevant archives pertaining to this debate could be located around here

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