A voting matter

Counting on machines

India’s electronic voting machines have come under some scrutiny by the media, civil society, politicians and voters. Since we use the same voting machines, our chief election commissioner, Dasho Kunzang Wangdi, clarified that the recent questions surrounding the integrity of the EVMs are:

… nothing to worry about. “I’m not concerned because I’ve seen many EVMs and the Indian EVMs are the best,” he said, adding that he had inspected various EVMs at an international conference in Philippines, where international vendors showcased technology during an exhibition at the election technology conference. “We have no reason to be concerned.”

The chief election commissioner’s confidence in the electronic voting machines is comforting. And his assurances that our EVMs are the best such machines are welcome.

But the very nature of electronic voting means that there will always be EVM critics. They will warn us that machines, being machines, can be tampered with, and that they can malfunction. And they will point out that voters have no way of verifying that their ballots have been actually recorded or counted properly.

So we should ask ourselves: do we really need to use electronic voting?  And we should ask ourselves this basic yet important question, even if we possess the world’s best EVMs.

Remember that our electorate is small and manageable – the 2008 elections had all of 318,465 registered voters. And that, as such, the paper ballot, a technology that’s plain and simple, but one that’s tried and tested, may serve us much more convincingly.


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  1. I am not an election expert, nor i am fan of election. But commenting on the realibility of EVM or for that matter, any other machine, the realibility is basically depends on operator and his/her skills and loyality to a machine. Any machine is susceptible to human tempering for they are designed by humans. But on the other hand, paper balloting is also susceptible to fraud if fraud is going to be committed. In essence, if anything can go wrong with the process, it will. This is a fundamental law that governs our existence and surrounding pharaphernalias.

  2. Fair enough. No system is a perfect system, be it social or technological. It isn’t free of errors and bugs. Both EVM and paper ballot systems have their own pros and cons. However my layman’s gut feeling is that there is a difference in degree of vulnerability to tempering and manipulation. Paper ballot system being a simple and straight forward process is more transparent, easier to detect faults/tempering and rectify it, simpler to verify and validate it. On the other hand EVM which runs on a piece of program code is a black box for many of us, perhaps for all the voters in our case. Unlike with the paper ballot, program code can be modified at machine level, there is a possibility of presetting a counter at supervisory level and worst verification is almost impossible owing to different layers of abstraction.

    I can’t fathom out the benefits of EVMs over paper ballot in our case both in terms of cost and utility.

  3. Bart Turner says:

    20 years of election experience in the US tells me a true paper ballot (and not just a “receipt”) is necessary to ensure accuracy, accountability, and public confidence.

  4. Dear Sir,

    Your party (PDP) complained and claimed right after the 2008 General Election results that the EVM machines were faulty in some Polling stations. How far did this speculation come true?
    This being said, I have another intersting question to ask you (just curious). Was it really the Civil Servants who influenced the Village Voters or the other way round because, I am of the opinion that the latter were much more informed about voting than the former, and I firmly believe that the case is still the same.
    Compare the knowledge about the voting awareness of civil servants and students to those of the so called illiterate villagers. The findings might surprise you!

  5. Well for me I personally feel that “complains” are basically made only as an excuse to escape failure. It is usually done to burst out his/her frustration for something that did go as expected.
    Coming to EVM I am certain that it has higher reliability and performance then manual paper-based voting system in terms of accuracy and processing time considering that the security (both physical and technical) are provided properly. Paper based system might be good but it is very time consuming, tedious and susceptible to easy manipulation because it is a simple system.
    The problems with EVMs are basically related to security, you can see some video on youtube. It is not related to the function of machine itself but rather caused by change/tempering of some parts inside the machine by some people who get access to machines before the election, who are determined to win somehow. Unless such tempering of the machine didn’t happen, I don’t think it is a big issue.
    So what need to be aware is about the security and access to these machines, which if not taken care of properly might result into bad consequences, but that can even happen to the paper-based system as well. More then the voting system, election itself it an interesting subject to give a good thought, so what I believe for a small county like ours, it is matter of choice and convinces.

  6. Phub Dorji Wang says:

    An election is held to choose the best candidates amongst the parties in contest using individual preference and judgment secretly in the ballot. We voter shall be satisfied if vote is cast using paper ballots. The EVM is not at all secured however best it is. A country like United States (world’s super power) still uses paper ballots. Why do they use paper ballots instead of EVM? The answer is simple they don’t believe in push button voting. They want the voting physical done which is retrieval at any time. The paper ballot ensures the right of the voters that every votes counts. We have seen candidates spending months campaigning in their respective constituency. But it is ironic that they can’t wait for few days for the results after casting of ballot. The EVM is widely used during Indian election because of the fact that the country has to deal with millions voters. What is our country’s population? Or for that matter how many are eligible for voting? During the last election, voting was finished by afternoon in most of polling station across the country. So what is need of EVM? Why spend un necessary expenditure on the machines. Since paper ballot is more secured and also the best form of casting of votes it should be introduced in the next election. It is the perfect system for Bhutan. The Election Commisison should Learn the advantages of paper ballot form their United States’ counterpart. Please choose the secured voting methods which is paper ballots.

  7. You have to be careful, everything “west” is not always the best. What we need to learn is find a solution that best suits us. I am not saying which one is better then the other. What I believe is that ECB must have done good research and analysis for their choice. I think the validation of the result is not that hard considering the number of people casting their vote. It is just a matter of matching the number of people that actually cast their vote against total of votes receives by each candidate and it is same for any kind of system.

  8. Major chunk of civil servants and students know the functions of political system. The villagers, though form majority of voters, ultimately they are in the hands of civil servant. Parents living in the villages seek c.servant’s (son, daut, inlaws etc) views on whom to vote for. The bottom line is whom to campaign with ??????? Best of Luck PDP……. and I personally congratulate for your victory over ruling government introducing unconstitutional taxing for vehicle. Live long TT, the OL

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