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News18 » Tech
4-min read

Elections: How an Electronic Voting Machine Works

Understand the working and advantages of an Electronic Voting Machine and why the Election Commission of India have made the switch for their conventional ways.

Sarthak Dogra | News18.com@SarthakDogra

Updated:February 11, 2017, 7:05 PM IST
Electronic Votiung Machine, Elections, State elections, General elections, Ballot, Balloting Unit, Conytrol Unit, Polling Inspector, Bogus Voting, Technology
Representative image (REUTERS/Utpal Baruah)

As the days of elections begin, voters line-up to vote for their preferred candidates. The entire voting process might be the very first one for many. One of the many interesting things about the process is the Electronic Voting Machine on which we place our votes.

Here we decode it for you: understand the working and advantages of an Electronic Voting Machine and why the Election Commission of India have made the switch from their conventional ways.

How does an Electronic Voting Machine work?

The voting machines used in India are a combination of two components. First component is called the Balloting unit on which the voters press the button. The other part is called the Control unit. This unit gives supervising power to the polling officer stationed at the poll booth.

The two units are connected by a five-meter cable. The voter places his /her vote on the Balloting unit which is placed inside the Voting compartment.

Previously, the polling officer used to issue a ballot paper to each voter. This is replaced by a functionality of the control unit. Now the polling officer presses the Ballot button which then allows the voter to cast a vote.

An EVM runs on 6-volt batteries to eliminate the need of any external power source. It is designed to record 64 candidate names and 3,840 votes at the max. The 64 candidate names can be split across (a maximum of) 4 balloting units connected in parallel, with 16 candidate names on each of the unit.

How does it tackle Bogus Voting?

To initiate the vote, the polling officer first presses the ballot button on the control unit. The balloting unit is then open for casting a vote. Once the voter presses any button on the unit, it is again locked for any further voting. Pressing any button again will not be counted as a vote.

This way, no registered voter can cast multiple votes for different or the same candidates.

How is it better than conventional voting methods?

No Bogus voting: The simple technology used in the balloting unit makes sure one person can cast only one vote.

No electricity connection required: Since the EVMs are powered by internal batteries, no electricity connection or other source is required. This ensures that the election process is not hindered even in the remote areas of the country where a power connection is not always available.

Saves Money: Though the initial investment cost of each EVM is high, it cuts up on a range of other expenditure related to the voting process. Eliminating the need of ballot papers (used in lakhs), transport and storage of these papers after voting, work force employed in counting of these votes and so on saves up a lot of money.

Easier transport: Carrying an EVM is much easier than a conventional Ballot box as they are lighter in weight.

Easier counting of votes: EVMs make it infinitely easier to count votes. A total count of the casted votes is stored in the internal memory of the unit. This data is later erased manually after the counting is done.

Longer Life: The shelf Life of an EVM used in India is said to be 15 years.

Ease of use: EVMs are much easier to use for the part population of India which is illiterate, as compared to the conventional ways of voting.

Display of result: The results of the voting can only be displayed once the voting process ends. This is ensured by two safeguards: First, the Result Button cannot be pressed until the Close button is pressed (which ends the voting for the day). Also, the Result button is sealed and can only be broken at the vote counting station.

Where does it lack?

Since a particular EVM unit can only hold a record number of votes, a candidate can easily know about the number of people that voted for him from a particular polling station. This may initiate different reactions from the winning party to different areas.

The results acquired by an EVM’s control unit are not transmitted electronically. They are instead tallied on the day of counting votes on counting booths.

How secure are Electronic Voting Machines?

As of now, Electronic Voting Machines seem to be a pretty safe option.

First, these machines do not work on the internet or are not connected wirelessly. So they cannot be ‘hacked’ by a hacker form anywhere.

The machines can only be ‘tampered’ with (if that is a possibility) but as these, machines are always kept under high security, nobody apart from the Election Commission of India has access to them.

Therefore for tampering an electronic voting machine, a person has to have an access to its unit, chances of which are next to negligible.

Furthermore, to have an impact on the election’s outcome, one will have to access multiple EVM units which is again not possible.

Also, the operating program of EVM’s controller unit is engraved permanently in silicon by the manufacturers. This program cannot be changed once the unit is manufactured, even by the manufacturer.

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| Edited by: Sarthak Dogra
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