Operating EVMs

Published : Feb 27, 2004 00:00 IST

A machine at an EVM distribution centre in Gujarat on the eve of the Assembly elections in December 2002. - KAMAL KISHORE/REUTERS

A machine at an EVM distribution centre in Gujarat on the eve of the Assembly elections in December 2002. - KAMAL KISHORE/REUTERS

IN India, electronic voting machines (EVMs) are manufactured by two public sector companies, Bharat Electronics Ltd. (BEL) and Electronics Corporation of India Ltd. (ECIL). Indian EVMs basically comprise two sub-units, the Control Unit (CU) and the Ballot Unit (BU), interconnected by a five-metre-long cable. The former has the power pack, which drives both the units. It also contains the programme-embedded processor chip. The latter includes the names of candidates in alphabetical order and their election symbols, each of which has a corresponding button and a glow bulb. In the polling booth, the CU is with the presiding officer and the BU is kept in the enclosure where the voter exercises his franchise.

When the voter presses the button corresponding to the symbol of his choice, the bulb flashes and a beep indicates that the vote has been recorded. In case of a mistake by the voter, there is no provision for cancellation or re-polling although it should be feasible, in principle, and there are no invalid votes. There is also a seven-second gap built into the system before it reactivates itself for the next vote. This prevents deliberate multiple voting by a single person. If an emergency situation arises, such as an attempt at booth-capturing, the presiding officer can quickly press the `close button' on the CU, which will shut down the system. It can be restarted only by breaking the seals. What is done in such an eventuality is that the system is replaced with another while the record of voting until the time of shut down is preserved in the earlier machine.

At the end of the poll, the CU and the BU are sealed in separate carrying cases in the presence of the candidates or their agents. They are then sent to secure storage centres where they are kept until the counting day. On the day of counting, the CUs are taken to the counting centre. On pressing the `Result' button, the total number of votes cast and individual votes recorded against each candidate are displayed sequentially.

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