Automation in Elections

How do EVMs work ?

An Indian Electronic Voting Machine consists of two units, a Control Unit and a Balloting Unit. The two units are joined by a five-meter cable. The control unit is with the presiding officer or a polling officer and the balloting unit is placed inside the voting compartment. When the officer in charge of the Control Unit presses the Ballot Button, the voter can cast his vote by pressing the blue button on the balloting unit against the candidate and symbol of his choice. A Controller is used in EVMs, in which the operating program is etched permanently at the time of manufacturing

EVMs are powered by an ordinary 6 volt alkaline battery. This design enables the use of EVMs throughout the country without interruptions because several parts of India do not have power supply and/or erratic power supply.

It is not possible to vote more than once by pressing the button again and again. As soon as a particular button on the balloting unit is pressed, the vote is recorded for that particular candidate and the machine gets locked. Even if one presses that button further or any other button, no further vote will be recorded. This way the EVMs ensure the principle of "one person, one vote".

As soon as the last voter has voted, the Polling Officer in-charge of the Control Unit will press the 'Close' Button. Thereafter, the EVM will not accept any votes. After the close of poll, the Balloting Unit is disconnected from the Control Unit and kept separately. The Presiding officer will hand over an account of votes recorded to each polling agent present.

At the time of counting of votes, the total will be tallied with this account and if there is any discrepancy, this will be pointed out by the Counting Agents. During the counting of votes, the results are displayed by pressing the 'Result' button. There are two safeguards to prevent the 'Result' button from being pressed before the counting of votes officially begins.

  1. This button cannot be pressed till the 'Close' button is pressed by the Polling Officer in-charge at the end of the voting process in the polling booth.
  2. This button is hidden and sealed. It can be broken only at the counting centre in the presence of designated officers.

Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail

A new system has been introduced to make the Poll process safer and tamper-proof. The EVMs generate a "paper trail" of the vote cast. The program on the EVM is now modified and a printer is attached to it. When the voter presses the button for the candidate of his choice in the EVM, a paper ballot with the serial number, name and symbol of the candidate is printed.

Benefits of Automation

Even though there is an initial investment in the Voting Machines, they help save costs in many ways. Production and printing of ballot papers in lakhs, their transportation and storage, the remuneration paid to the counting staff etc. For each national election, it is estimated that about 10,000 tons of ballot paper would be saved. EVMs are easier to transport compared to ballot boxes as EVMs are lighter, portable and come with polypropylene carrying cases. The vote counting is faster and in places where illiteracy is still a factor, illiterate people find EVMs easier than ballot paper system. Bogus voting is greatly reduced as the vote is recorded only once. The unit can store the result in its memory before it is erased manually. The battery is required only to activate the EVMs at the time of polling and counting and as soon as the polling is over, the battery can be switched off. The shelf life of Indian EVMs is estimated at 15 years.