Election Commission showed the working of voting machines amid allegations of EVM tampering.
New Delhi: The long-awaited EVM Challenge to establish that the Electronic Voting Machines cannot be tampered will start from June 3, Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi announced on Saturday. But the Election Commission doesn't expect anyone to win the challenge. The poll body came up with the challenge so as to reassure political parties that raised doubts about the machines used to conduct every Lok Sabha and state elections held after 2002. But the Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party, which has been the loudest of the dozen-plus political parties that has campaigned against the machines, is unlikely to be impressed with the ground rules laid down by the election body.
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Political parties will have to apply by 26 May to participate in the EVM's Open Challenge. Each party can send three representatives, preferably Indian nationals, who will get access to four voting machines from the five states where elections were conducted earlier this year to provide their EVM tampering charge.
The challenge that the commission has thrown to the political parties is to prove that the machines can be tampered either before, or after the election, to benefit a particular candidate.
For the challenge, they will have to show that EVM tampering is possible by pressing the keys in a particular sequence. It was alleged that the chip could be coded at the manufacturer's level or later, to credit votes into a particular candidate's account after keys are pressed in a particular sequence.
The other option will be to show that the machine can be tampered after connecting to the EVMs through a wireless network or Bluetooth. Early in his presentation, Mr Zaidi had said this was not possible because EVMs were standalone machines that could not be connected any other device.
But the Election Commission will not allow the political parties to meddle with, or replace the electronic components. Replacing any component would amount to re-creating the device, Mr Zaidi said. They will, however, be allowed to "visually inspect" the circuits inside the machines.
The conditions imposed by the election panel flow from its argument that there were strict provisions that make any unauthorised access to the vote machines impossible at any point. The machines were designed to shut down if tampered with, he said, adding there was already a rule that strong rooms where EVMs are stored between two elections can be accessed in presence of all local political parties.
The Aam Aadmi Party or AAP is leading the high-pitched allegation by the opposition parties that the electronic voting machines or EVMs being used currently were tampered with in the Uttar Pradesh assembly election to ensure that the BJP won with a high margin in the state. Mr Kejriwal also attributed his party's defeat in the Punjab assembly polls and the Delhi municipal polls to the alleged tampering of voting machines.
Hours before the Election Commission's press conference, Aam Aadmi Party held a media briefing. Party spokesperson Ashutosh said, "EC is only demonstrating in front of media... We request EC once again, that they should not do anything which reduces peoples' faith in democracy."
Last Friday, the Election Commission had met representatives of 42 political parties - seven national and 35 state-level - to discuss the reliability of voting machines and to seek suggestion from parties on how to conduct the 'hackathon'. After the meeting, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted, "Sad that EC has backed out of hackathon."