Election Commission gives in on paper-trails in EVMs?

After coming under fire from transparency activists, including Anna Hazare, the Election Commission of India seems to have given in to the demand for paper-backed election instead of purely electronic recording of votes.

The Election Commission had come under fire after Hari Prasad, an activist was arrested for securing an EVM from Mumbai in his efforts to prove that the machines can be compromised.

Several political parties, including the main opposition, BJP, have been requesting for paper trail EVMs which would make it difficult for the stored ‘vote values’ to be manipulated after the votes are cast and the EVMs are under safe-keeping. For example, the Kerala elections were over on April 13, but the EVMs will be opened only on May 13.

In a new statement, the Election Commission said it has discussed the possibility of introducing paper trails — which act as a back-up in case of disputes — into the EVM system.

“The Technical Expert Committee on EVM met on 15th April, 2011 the officials of Bharat Electronics Limited and Electronics Corporation of India Limited to discuss the issues related to the introduction of Paper Trail on the EVMs used in election in the country.

“The Expert Committee discussed the details of technical issues related to the matter and asked both the manufacturers to provide detailed road map shortly for further consideration of the Commission. Next meeting will be after four weeks,” it added.

Most foreign democracies, including the US and Germany, have a hybrid system of electronic voting records, backed up by paper records.

In case of disputes or technical glitches, the paper records, which are created at the time of voting and sometimes resemble punching cards, are counted manually. Unlike electronic records, paper records are not easily destructible.