Indian General Elections

EVM Randomisation: How Does The EC Prevent EVM Fraud Prior To Polling? What Are The Protocols Safeguarding The Machines?

Written By Suchitra Karthikeyan | Mumbai | Published:

As 21 Opposition parties claim major voter fraud hinting at EVM malfunction and demanding a return to a paper ballot system, the Election Commission has preventive measure in place to counter EVM swapping or tampering beforehand - EVM randomisation.

In a nutshell, the two-stage randomisation process is done before the EVMs are put to use. This ensures that nobody knows in advance which EVMs will be allotted to a particular constituency/polling station.

Before we get into the exact procedure, let us know the polling mechanism - EVM.

What are the parts of the EVM?

As per the EVM manual published by the Election Commission of India, the EVM has two parts - the control unit (CU) and the balloting unit (BU). The control unit which is kept with the polling official ensures verification of the voter's identity. He then presses a Ballot Button which enables the voter to cast their vote. The BU in the voting station has a list of candidates names and/or symbols with a blue button next to it. There is also an independent system called the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) where one can view the slip containing the serial number, name, and symbol of the candidate the vote is cast for through a transparent window.

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First level of randomisation:

The EVM manual states the following steps of the process -

  • The CUs and BUs are assigned to the Assembly Constituencies in the presence of the representatives of recognized political parties in such a way that the CUs and BUs are randomly selected by grouping them to match the poll day requirement including the reserve required for each constituency. Indicative stickers are then affixed to the machines as per the protocol: Green - for polling, Yellow - for training
  • After the first randomisation, the Returning Officer (RO) of each constituency will take charge of the CUs and BUs randomly allotted to his constituency and take them to their allotted strong room. The training EVMs shall be distributed to the relevant officers for the training purpose. The EVMs will be escorted with proper security and the strong room will be guarded 24X7 with round the clock CCTV coverage. A log book of the security duty will be maintained. 

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Second level of randomisation:

The EVM manual states the following steps of the process -

  • This randomisation is done prior to the preparation of EVMs for poll candidate setting to ensure the allocation of EVMs randomly to polling stations.
  • The RO sets the date for randomisation and once the EVMs are randomised, the BUs and CUs are marked in the EVM tracking software, as to which machine has been alloted to which polling station. A list of the polling BUs and CUs is prepared and the reserve machines are also marked.
  • In case additional BUs are used, the manual also specifies the steps to be followed in the various scenarios leading to the need of additional BUs.
  • In case additional BUs are used because of the number of contesting candidates is more than 16 (including NOTA), the presiding officer must be informed to arrange the Balloting Units in the required manner as per protocol so that the electors are not put to any kind of inconvenience and at the same time the secrecy of ballot is not compromised in any way. 

The above process/procedure shall be followed for VVPAT also.