Require transparency around use of EVMs from the Election Commission of India

Feb 24, 2024
By PUCL Maharashtra

Dear Sirs, 

Date: 24th February 2024 

To 1. Shri Rajiv Kumar, Chief Election Commissioner Election Commission of India (ECI) 

  1. Shri Arun Goel, Election Commissioner Election Commission of India (ECI) 
  2. Shri Shrikant Deshpande Chief Election Commissioner, Maharashtra ` Election Commission of India (ECI) 

Subject: Civil Society concerns about current electronic voting system, being incompatible with Indian citizens’ right to vote and Petition for Improvements to the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and Electronic Election System (EES) in India leading to our demand of 100% counting of the VVPAT slips in the forthcoming elections. Require adequate level of transparency from Election Commission of India 

We Peoples’ Union of Civil Liberties believe that the basic principles of democracy that any voting process for public elections should adhere to are: 

  1. The right to vote is a constitutional and statutory right, grounded in Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution, as the casting of a vote amounts to expression of an opinion by the voter. 
  2. The voting process should be transparent in a manner that the general citizens can be satisfied that their vote is correctly recorded as cast and counted as recorded. 
  3. The voting and counting process should be publicly auditable. 

d . Ordinary citizens should be able to verify the essential steps in the voting process. 

  1. The election process should not only be free and fair, but also be seen to be free and fair. 
  2. The voting process should, all at the same time, be transparent, secret, efficient and immune to manipulations both by the state and non-state players. 
  3. The technology used for voting system should be in sync with current technologies and technological practices and be incapable of manipulation, the verifiability and reliability of the system must be inbuilt as part of the technical solution and be subject to public scrutiny/examinability. 
  4. Use of Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) has changed the Indian Election System to be an Electronic Election System (EES). In any system, it is not sufficient to scrutinise only one part of the system, irrespective of how important that part is. The system must hold its integrity as a whole, for being trustworthy. The EES being electronic now, it must demonstrate and prove electronic integrity against physical, electronic, and digital threats before, during and after the entire election.

We write this petition to communicate to you the key concerns we have identified regarding the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and the Electronic Election System (EES) currently in use in India. While acknowledging the advantages of technology in the electoral process, it is crucial to ensure that these systems are fool-proof, tamper-free, transparent, and uphold the invaluable and inalienable rights of Indian citizens to vote. 

We have undertaken an extensive system analysis and identified core problems with the current EVM based EES and its entire ecosystem. To enhance the trustworthiness and legitimacy of the electoral process, we also propose solutions and safeguards that need to be put in place urgently to address a minimum of these issues, attached as Annexure I. 

We are concerned with the inadequate response from ECI to number of voices raised by citizens concerning the verifiability and reliability of the EES. We will post here for illustration various concerns registered by knowledgeable persons over the period attached as Annexure II. So far ECI has responded through social media or through publishing FAQs. This has resulted in a lack of confidence in the reliability of the entire election process. 

We are concerned about transparent functioning of ECI, which ensures impartial and trustworthy the electoral system, with End-to-end-verifiability and responds to doubts raised by citizens and opposition political parties thereby is also seen by citizens as trustworthy. This includes not only conduct of elections but also enrolment of all citizens as voters in the electoral system. 

We express our dissatisfaction with the FAQs and have recorded our submissions in response to the same in the attached Annexure III. 

We urge the Election Commission of India to respond to these core issues raised in all three Annexures promptly, as neglecting any of them may violate the constitutional right of Indian citizens to vote. Your commitment to addressing these concerns will contribute to the credibility and trustworthiness of the electoral process in India. 

We, the undersigned, support the implementation of these improvements to the EVM-based EES and call for immediate action to enhance the transparency, security, and fairness of the electoral system. 

We below put forth necessary and essential changes to the Electronic Voting System

  1. The Ballot Unit (BU) and the Control Unit (CU) must be paired with each other. The pairing is to be done by using a unique ID and date-stamp in each of the two on the day of polling just before the commencement of polling. Subsequently, at the counting station, just before the start of counting, the pairing is to be verified.

In case of failure, the BU — instead of the CU — is to be used for counting. Alternately, both may be disregarded and repolling for that particular booth may be done. 

  1. The VVPAT Unit, vulnerable as it is having been connected to an external Symbol Upload Unit (SLU), must not be connected to the CU, in any whatever way. The BU has to talk to the CU and VVPAT Unit simultaneously and parallelly and not to the VVPAT via the CU.

Necessary design changes need to be made. 

  1. The CU must be fitted with a real-time GPS tracker and its geolocation must be made accessible to all the legitimate stakeholders. 4. Additionally, the feasibility of a data recovery system, in case of a disaster or so, needs to be seriously explored for early implementation.

Finally, it is to clarify that this is not to ask for any return to ballot boxes having their own serious problems. 

We are also ready to positively and promptly respond to any invitation to explain, backed up with necessary demonstrations, in person our above contentions. 

We also reiterate that a fundamental question that needs to be answered by not just the ECI, but also the Supreme Court of India is: 

  • Which is the real vote? The one that voter has seen though not actively verified or the one that is neither seen nor verified by the voter? 
  • Meanwhile we believe as of now, before we bring in the security, transparency and accuracy as suggested above, the solution lies in 100% counting of VVPAT slips collected in the sealed VVPAT Box which are seen by voters until they get cut and drop in the sealed Drop Box thereby removing the role of CU altogether.


All members 

People’s Union of Civil Liberties, Maharashtra