Friday, August 27, 2010

Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) not tamperproof

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Dinamani ePaper

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MPs demand probe into voting machines

PTI

First Published: 26 Aug 2010 03:23:09 PM IST

NEW DELHI: In the backdrop of the arrest of a man who raised doubts about EVMs, several MPs today said the issue of alleged tampering of the voting machines should be looked into thoroughly and an all-party meeting be called to discuss the issue.

BJP has maintained that EVMs used in India were not tamper-proof and a paper back-up should be used during elections.

The party's top brass, including L K Advani and Nitin Gadkari, have expressed doubts about the authenticity of these machines.

"A computer readjustment of the programme (in an EVM) and we will be sitting in the opposition forever," BJP MP Maneka Gandhi said.

She mentioned the case in Florida, USA, in which EVMs were reportedly tampered. She said an all-party meeting should be called and opinion of experts sought on the issue.

Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and Union Minister Farooq Abdullah said during his tenure as CM, the EVMs were introduced for the first time and questions were raised then on whether these machines were "foolproof".
"I think they should probe first. You have to be very clear that the machines are foolproof. It should be free of doubt," Abdullah said.

Asked if he felt this calls for an all-party meeting on the issue, Abdullah answered in the affirmative.
Trinamool Congress Chief Whip in Lok Sabha Sudip Bandopadhyaya said EVMs made the voting pattern quicker but at the same time these should be above any doubts.

"We have not taken any decision (on EVMs). We had our allegations once, no doubt. But now we have done well (electorally)," Bandopadhyaya said.

Hari Prasad, technical coordinator of VeTA (Citizens for Verifiability, Transparency and Accountability in Elections), who claimed that electronic voting machines could be tampered with, was arrested from Hyderabad on Saturday last in connection with the theft of an EMV. The Election Commission has termed as "patently false" the allegation that Prasad was arrested at its behest.

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Efficacy of EVM: Opposition wants all-party meet

U Anand Kumar

Express News Service

First Published: 26 Aug 2010 02:53:24 AM IST

NEW DELHI: The Opposition in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday demanded an all-party meeting to discuss vulnerability of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). Raising the issue during the Zero Hour, TDP leader MV Mysura Reddy said that the EVMs were vulnerable and did not have backups in case of failure.

He pointed out that the technical experts, international as well as Indian, proved beyond doubt that these EVMs were vulnerable to tampering.

"Instead of rectifying this defect, the Election Commission is harassing the technical experts by filing cases against them and forcing the Government to arrest those people", he alleged.

Mysura Reddy underlined the need to convince all political parties and people regarding the fair voting and the foolproof system of these EVMs.

Intervening on the issue, Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley said, "In some countries, they have gone back to the paper system on the ground that a voter is entitled to know whether his vote has been registered or not".

Urging the government to call a meeting of all political parties and allay these fears, CPM leader Sitaram Yechury said that there were also some very positive suggestions whereby you can improve the entire system.

AIADMK leader V Maitreyan said that the EVMs have become suspect in the eyes of not only the political class in this country but also the common man.

"Now, throughout Europe, elections are being held only through paper ballot. There has been a persistent demand that an all-party meeting should be held as early as possible to create an opinion on this. We seek that the country should revert back to paper ballot", he added.

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EVM controversy takes a political turn

TNN, Aug 26, 2010, 02.45pm IST

NEW DELHI: The controversy over Electronic Voting Machines has taken a political turn with TDP chief Chandrabab u Naidu batting for the man who 'proved' that voting machines could be tampered with. The BJP and the Left too join the fray by demanding an all-party meeting to discuss the 'vulnerability' of the EVMs in elections, Times Now reported on Thursday.

According to Times Now, the TDP chief termed as "unfortunate", the arrest of a technocrat Hari Prasad by Maharashtra Police in connection with the theft of an Electronic Voting Machine. He also alleged that Hari Prasad was arrested last Saturday based on a complaint filed by a District Election Officer, which stated that an EVM has been stolen from a government godown.

"The EVMs are tamperable. And, there is no backup. Even experts have raised this issue. Election Commission did not take into consideration all these things, but we don't know why they have arrested the expert. We have raised this issue in Parliament," said Naidu.

"Hari Prasad has only used the machine to prove that it is tamperable. It is not his crime," Naidu said.
Naidu demanded that Prasad be released immediately and all cases against him be withdrawn. He also demanded that the government take steps to ensure that the voting process is made foolproof.

VeTA ( Citizens for Verifiability, Transparency and Accountability in Elections), the NGO for which Prasad was working as technical coordinator, has termed Prasad's arrest a witch-hunt by the EC even as the opposition parties renewed calls for an all-party meet to discuss electronic voting.

The incident has also caught the attention of the world media, with many experts questioning the EC's reaction to criticism.

Producing a letter written by 12 parties, including CPM, RJD, SP and JD(U) to EC in April on the same issue, Naidu had alleged yesterday that EVMs can be tampered with. He said that the doubts about their functioning have "reduced the people's faith in the system". He demanded that the Election Commission convene an all-party meeting to discuss steps required to reform the voting system.

EVM issue raised in Rajya Sabha

Major opposition parties including the BJP and Left yesterday also demanded an all-party meeting to discuss in depth, the "vulnerability" of the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in elections.

"We will urge the government to call an all-party meeting," said Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley in the upper house, adding technical experts should also be called to clear doubts. BJP leader L K Advani has already raised questions about EVMs being tamper-proof. Raising the issue during Zero Hour, M V Mysura Reddy (TDP) said EVMs were vulnerable and did not have backups in case of failure. He alleged that Election Commission was harassing technical experts who had doubts over the functioning of EVMs.

He said cases were slapped against these experts. Reddy was supported by Sitaram Yechury, who said that an all-party meeting should be called to resolve the issue.

V Maitreyan of AIADMK said that EVMs have become the suspects not only for the political class but also for the common man. He said that several European countries have gone back to ballot paper. He also accused the EC of harassing technical experts who questioned the efficacy of the machines.

Chandrababu Naidu demanded that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should intervene in the matter and convene an all-party meeting to discuss this "important issue."

Naidu said all parties, including BJP, have doubts about the functioning of EVMs and hoped that Congress will also join their campaign. "I spoke to ( senior BJP leader) Arun Jaitely and other leaders. We hope Congress will also support us (on this issue)," he said.

'EVMs not tamperproof'

Hari Prasad was part of a three-member global team that sought to prove that EVMs had their flaws. The team needed an EVM for testing, but the Election Commission did not help efforts by failing to provide machines. The team nevertheless managed to procure one, and that is why he was accused of stealing one from Mumbai.

"From the last conversation I had with him, Hari is staying strong. They are putting pressure on him, but he has not revealed the name of the source who supplied it (the EVM)," said Alex Halderman, assistant professor of computer science at the University of Michigan and one of the world's foremost specialists on voting machine security.

Halderman had teamed up with Prasad and Dutch hacker Robert Valentijn Gonggrijp earlier this year on the invitation of an NRI association called 'Save Indian Democracy' and VeTA to examine the possibility of misusing electronic voting machines (EVM) in India.

Soon after last year's national elections, the Election Commission had publicly challenged anyone to prove that EVMs could be hacked.

To their dismay, the trio found that the Commission was in no mood to give them one of the 1.3 million EVMs for testing, until an anonymous source supplied them with one.

According to the Maharashtra police who are interrogating Hari Prasad, the machine was stolen from the godown at Old Customs House in Mumbai. Hari was arrested on Saturday, soon after he gave a live demonstration of how EVMs could be pre-programmed to favour one candidate or party.

"This is a case where the police action is obviously politically motivated. It is an attempt to intimidate us," Halderman says.

The controversy was further stoked at an industry conference on EVMs in Washington, US, where Alok Shukla, Deputy Election Commissioner at the ECI and Alex Halderman put forth different accounts regarding the case of Hari Prasad.

Halderman, who said that he and his colleagues had worked with Prasad to demonstrate the vulnerability of EVMs to tampering, pleaded with Shukla to call off efforts by the ECI to have the police question Prasad.

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Intel background check on EVM 'thief'

Vishwa Mohan,

TNN, Aug 27, 2010, 03.06am IST

NEW DELHI: Is the arrested activist, who showed that an Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) can be tampered with, a mere tool in the hands of some corporate rivals who want to make a clone of the equipment which has a huge demand in countries across Africa and South America?

Or, is he, who got technical help from three foreigners, a part of some larger conspiracy to discredit India's election process?

With these sneaking suspicions in mind, the intelligence agencies -- both IB and R&AW -- have set into motion their network to check the backgrounds of Hari Prasad, who was arrested in Hyderabad in the EVM theft case last Saturday, and his foreign contacts.

Suspecting that the instrument might have been smuggled out possibly to an European country, a top official on Thursday said there could be a larger "conspiracy angle" to discredit the country's election process and this was being probed "thoroughly" after Prasad's arrest.

"There seems to be a bigger picture than what it looked like initially. We are conducting a through probe to find out who was actually behind it, why it has been done and whether there is a conspiracy to discredit India's election process," the official said.

Sources said the investigators have found that two Americans and one Dutch national had helped Prasad, technical coordinator of VeTA ( Citizens for Verifiability, Transparency and Accountability in Elections), to show how the machine can be tampered with.

The Union home ministry is constantly monitoring the development and giving regular directions to the investigators and intelligence agencies asking for all the details. Besides, the probe agencies are also trying to find out whether any domestic or foreign private corporate was indirectly involved in the theft case to make a clone as EVMs are manufactured only by two government undertakings -- Bharat Electronics Limited and Electronic Corporation of India. Both these organisations also export EVMs to a few foreign countries.

Prasad was arrested for allegedly stealing an EVM from the Mumbai Collector's office. He used the EVM for demonstrating on TV how the machine can be tampered with. Prasad, however, claimed innocence saying he did not steal the EVM, which was given to him by two persons who took it back within two days.

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EVM theft: Court extends Prasad's police custody

PTI, Aug 26, 2010, 03.31pm IST

MUMBAI: A Metropolitan court today extended the police remand of activist Hari Prasad, who claimed to have blown the whistle on how an Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) can be tampered with, conceding prosecution's request for his further custodial interrogation.
While extending Prasad's police remand till August 28, Metropolitan Magistrate V B Srikhande refused to entertain his bail plea, saying it would be considered only after his police remand gets over and he is sent to judicial custody.

Hari Prasad (42), technical coordinator of VeTA ( Citizens for Verifiability, Transparency and Accountability in Elections), was arrested from Hyderabad on Saturday for allegedly stealing an EVM from the Mumbai Collector's office. He later used the EVM for demonstrating on TV how the machine can be tampered with.

The police sought further custody of Prasad, saying it needed to find out the identity of two other activists from Maharashtra who allegedly helped him.

"This is a very sensitive case with repercussions at the national level and police should be given time and Hari Prasad's custody for investigation," Srikhande observed while passing the order.

Claiming innocence, Prasad said he did not steal the EVM, which was given to him by two persons who took it back within two days.

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