Despite earning international accolades for being an infallible instrument of the election management system, the electronic voting machines (EVMs) were subjected to unwarranted attacks in the past by some political parties and conspiracy theorists. Doubts were raised over the efficacy of the machines and even political motives were attributed to the poll panel. Some parties have even demanded reverting to the old paper ballot system, which would mean a throwback to an era of booth capturing. Against this backdrop, the Election Commission’s decision to deploy the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) system for the upcoming Gujarat Assembly polls is a welcome move. This would help in allaying apprehensions among some political parties and establish the robustness and impartiality of the system mastered over decades. This would be the first time that VVPAT will be used across the State. The back-up system allows the voter to verify his or her vote after registering it on the EVM and the paper trail would make it possible to audit the election result by the poll panel in select constituencies. However, it would be a cumbersome and costly process to have the VVPAT at all polling stations. The paper audit trail can be implemented in a limited number of polling booths for the purpose of demonstration and as a measure of extra caution to clear doubts of the naysayers. However, it should not become the norm in future. In fact, the Election Commission must be encouraged to switch to the next generation of advanced EVMs.
In order to dispel doubts over the technological safeguards built into the EVMs, the Election Commission had challenged the political parties to a hackathon in June. However, the parties that were the most vocal critics of the EVMs failed to turn up and those who attended went back satisfied. The controversy over vulnerability of the EVMs to tampering should now be considered a closed chapter. The indigenous EVMs, the standalone, non-networked machines that run on a single programmed microchip, have proved to be quite ahead of the curve when compared to those being used in other parts of the world. Election after election, the EC has demonstrated the robustness of the voting process. At least five high courts had concluded in the past that EVMs are credible and totally tamperproof. The new model of EVM has tamper detection feature, which makes the machine inoperative the moment anyone tries to open it. The use of EVMs has been one of the stellar success stories of India’s mature democracy and an independent Election Commission. Over the years, the EC has earned accolades worldwide for efficient, free and fair conduct of polls. Nothing should be done to tarnish its image.