The EVM Challenge by the Election Commission: Ten things you need to know

Political parties in some states including UP, UK and Punjab alleged that the EVM machines used in recently conducted polls were tampered with. The government rubbished the claims and supported the efforts of the Election Commission increase with the use of EVMs across the nation. The Election Comission wanted to demonstrate that the EVMs cannot be tampered with, and announced a challenge to the political parties, to demonstrate that the EVMs can be compromised.

10. This is not a "hackathon", a word that the Election Commission (EC) has not used. The reason for the "hackathon" and how it will be conducted is outlined by the EC in "EVM Challenge By Election Commission of India". The Election Commission is only inviting those parties who claim that the devices were tampered with, to demonstrate that it is possible.

09. Three parts of the electronic voting system is under the scanner here. There is a control unit (CU), a ballot unit (BU) and the voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) which is deployed in only some locations for now.

08. The challenge is around using specific methods to compromise the EVM. This involves pressing the buttons in the CU or BU in a particular sequence, or try to compromise the system by accessing the system through wireless, bluetooth or mobile technologies. The Election Comission has indicated that the devices have no interfaces for remotely accessing the device, and the CU can only accept encrypted data from the BU.

07. The strongest security feature is that the EVMs are standalone devices. The US, EU nations have previously introduced and discontinued EVMs. The problem with these devices is that they were networked, which allowed them to be compromised. The data is stored on the device itself, and not transferred to external memory.

06. You cannot introduce another device into the system. Every EVM has a serial number that is centrally tracked. According to the EC, Strong device storage and transportation protocols, as well as the paper audit trail (VVPAT) are aspects of the process that make the use of EVMs secure in India. You cannot fool the system into accepting votes from another machine.

05. The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) have accepted the challenge. There are individual counters set up for the two participating parties.

04. The EVMs have to be chosen from polling booths in the contested states. These are UP, UK, Punjab, Goa and Manipur. 4 EVMs from 4 polling stations in these 5 states have been chosen by those participating in the challenge.


03. The only press invited by the EC for the event is the keypress.

02. The two companies making the EVMs are Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL), Bengaluru and Electronics Corporation of India Ltd (ECI), Hyderabad. There are no foreign technologies used in the EVMs, including the software.

01. The EC has plans in place to increase confidence in the process of using EVMs. Funds to deploy the VVPAT machines for all elections have already been allocated, and the EC plans to deploy VVPAT nationwide by 2019. As soon as a vote is cast on the ballot unit, the VVPAT machine displays the details of the candidate appear on screen, that the voter can verify for themselves. The VVPAT machine then prints out the details on a piece of real paper, that drops into a box and serves as a "paper audit trail" to back up the results of the EVM.

A few outspoken parties have not showed up to the challenge, including  BSP and SP who challenged the results of the UP elections, along with the NCP. The AAM aadmi party has decided to hold its own EVM Challenge.

Representatives from the manufacturers are expected to be in the demonstrations by the EC, which the EC hopes will convince the representatives of the political parties about the strong security measures in place. The EC has also said that making the elections security is a collaborative process, and has invited inputs from anyone if way to compromise the process is discovered, or for measures that can be taken to improve the security of the polls.

Updated Date: Jun 03, 2017 12:40 PM