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Subject: Indian Election EVM (electronic voting machines)


Some useful notes and links of interest to contrast and compare.


----- Original Message ----- 
> Hi Ron (and other authors of this paper),
>       I was going through the rebuttal document and found this
> interesting mention of Indian EVMs at section 4 ("Miscellaneous
> Errors") of the document.
> "Finally, in his 1.5, Shamos implicitly argues that DREs are suitable
> for America because India has chosen to use them nationwide. The
> authors fail to understand Shamos s intent here. Perhaps he will issue
> an updated version of his paper explaining his argument more clearly?"
>      I have not read Shamos' original paper, but there are a few key
> differences between the Indian EVMs that were used in the Indian
> general elections last time and the American DREs, like the Diebolds.
> 1. First of all, the Indian EVM is basically a hardware device with very
> software components. All the logic of the device is embedded into
> firmware, a microchip specifically designed for the purpose of
> recording the votes. Hence the opportunities for tampering with the
> voting 'software' is very little or non-existent.
> 2. It has a ballot unit and a control unit. The control unit has a
> 'close' button which when pressed will freeze the voting firmware in
> the system so that it becomes read-only. This is done in a polling
> station at the end of voting, so that the system cannot be tampered in
> any way later.
> 2. The amount of intelligence in the voting system itself is minimal.
> The voting system has no idea of the candidates, their names etc. The
> system can be considered essentially as a 16-way electronic slotting
> system, which can record upto 3,840 votes in all these 16 slots. The
> balloting officers put a strip of paper along side each of the 16
> slots on the machine (or lesser, if the number of candidates is less
> than 16). The voter pushes a button next to the slot with the name of
> his candidate which records his/her vote for him. At the end of
> polling,
> the polling officer presses a button on the control unit, which shows the
> total number of votes polled against each 'slot'. It is now the job of
> the polling officers to take the machines to a tabulation center,
> where the tabulation officers look at the names of candidates against
> each slot and manually add up the votes from each polling station.
> 3. Thus the system, though technically a DRE does not preclude the
> human role completely since tabulation of votes is done manually for
> each DRE. It is not a fully automated system as an American Diebold.
> 4.  Since each ballot unit can record only upto 3,840 votes, the chances
> a corrupt party can influence voting results by capturing a polling
> booth (which is quite common here!) is vastly reduced, when compared
> to the old papor balloting system. Once the polling officer has closed
> a ballot station, the firmware is effectively untamperable.
> 5. Thuis the Indian e-voting systems are designed entirely different
> when compared to American DREs. They are also much less complex with
> no GUIs,
> databases and associated software components. Hence chances of someone
> actually tampering with the 'software' just before an election is much
> less in an Indian election when compared to an American one. The only
> way to tamper with an Indian DRE is to introduce malware into it right
> at the production stage, when the code for the firmware is written.
> This however is very unlikely since there are strict controls in
> place. Of course, the second way to influence the voting results is to
> influence the tabluation officers themselves so that votes are
> incorrectly tabulated for a candidate. But again there are different
> (human) layers of checks and cross-checks in place to avoid
> malpractices such as these.
> Even with such as simple system and effectively tamper-proof DREs,
> there are quite a few people here in the academia who are unhappy with
> the Indian DREs
> and recommend systems with a paper trail.
> However my point is that the Indian EVMs and American DREs differ so
> much that any comfort that Shamos draws from the fact that India uses
> DREs in voting
> cannot be used as a direct argument for promoting the use of the same
> in American elections due to the vast technical and political
> differences between the two systems.
> Here are few links where you can find more information on the Indian DRE.
> About the Indian EVM:
> About the non-use of paper trails in Indian EVMs
> http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/654834.cms
> http://frazer.rice.edu/epit/documents/dan/Dan-Comment-EK4.doc
> Regards
> -Anand

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