Security of EVMs: Question Mark Moves From Tampering of EVMs to Transportation and Storage After Polls
EC admits cameras not functioning in storage strong room
NEW DELHI: The Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections are over but everything is not right. Apart from the usual complaints of delays and the malfunctioning of electronic voting machines that hounds every election with reason of course, this time around the this time around there seems to be a lot more wrong - from the transportation of the EVMs after the votes were cast to the strongroom in Bhopal where these have been stored till counting day.
The Election Commission has admitted that CCTV cameras installed at a Bhopal strongroom where electronic voting machines (EVMs) were stored after the Madhya Pradesh polls did not function for over an hour due to an unprecedented power cut on Friday, resulting in a blackout that provoked accusations of tampering from opposition parties. It was only after the accusations were formally made by the Congress party and others that the EC has admitted to this grave lapse, with the strongroom cameras on the blink and unable to record movements from 8.19 am to 9.35 am on November 30.
Subsequently the EC claimed, an additional LED screen, an inverter and a generator have been installed to ensure continuous electricity supply. A statement by the EC said that the cameras on the premises are now working, and two cordons of security personnel have been deployed to prevent any wrongdoing. And of course, now the security force is maintaining a logbook, with the EC insiting that the machines are “perfectly safe”.
But what about the 75 minutes when the cameras went blank?
Interestingly the EC has also confirmed, following a Congress complaint, that a back door at the Old Jail strongroom was left unlocked. It has now been locked, the EC said.
A third complaint by the Congress party leaders in MP was that 48 hours, that is two days after the polls, a school bus without a number plate transported reserve EVMs to the Sagar district collectors office. A Congress delegation had met the Election Commission earlier in the day to raise its concerns over the security of EVMs across Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Congress MP said, "the spare EVMs were to be deposited two hours after the polls, not two days. This happened in the Khurai seat, from where the state home minister is contesting the polls.”
The EC has also confirmed the validity of opposition complaints of EVMs being supplied late to the polling booths. It claimed that these were not tampered with, but that procedural lapses had indeed taken place. And that action had been taken against one tehsildar for the delayed submission of machines.
Congress leader Ahmed Patel has submitted four suggestions for immediate implementation to the EC. These are:
1) Kindly allow representatives of all political parties while transporting EVM’s to counting centres from strong rooms
2) Cross check if postal ballots were received from eligible voters
3) Review conduct of top officials in 3 districts-Rajnandgaon, Kondagaon & Bilaspur
4) Initiate second round of counting only after completion of first round.
The tampering of EVMs has become a major issue amongst political parties with such allegations made time and again over the past several elections. This time the first serious charges on the transportation of the machines, and the storage till polling day have not only been made but actually confirmed by the EC. This raises major issues of security of the votes cast, with major vigilance required around the clock, particularly in the general elections where the time span between votes polled and counted is of weeks and months.