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Watch: A beginner’s guide to Electronic Voting Machines

  • Published at 01:15 pm July 20th, 2018

The Electoral Commission recently presented its security features to the Dhaka Tribune and provided an overview of the use of EVMs

The Election Commission (EC) claims that the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) system is protected by multiple layers of security that are impossible to hack. 

Even if a machine malfunctions, gets stolen, or is hijacked, voting will continue via a backup system. The new machines are user-friendly and more secure against vote-rigging attempts.

The commission recently showed the Dhaka Tribune its security features and provided an overview of the use of EVMs.

Features of the new EVM

All EVMs features several layers of security, but the machine’s users will have to go through three security features.  All EVM units have built-in password protection and features complete access control. 

EVMs with one control unit and three ballot units were used for city elections, but EVMs to be used for the 11th general polls will have one control unit and one ballot unit. 

Timelocked access control 

As the first layer of security, a timelock will ensure the EVM machine remains inoperable till 8am, when voting usually begins in Bangladesh.  

These machines, built by Bangladesh Machine Tools Factory (BMTF), will be in lockdown before the scheduled voting time—reducing the possibility of vote-rigging. 

Mandatory use of SD and audit cards 

An EVM will only be ready for voting once an SD card containing voter data, and an audit card containing information on the presiding officer, assistant presiding officer and polling officer stationed at a particular polling centre, is inserted.

Also Read- EC plans to use EVM in next general election

A voter is casting ballot using a EVM in the Gazipur city polls, took place on July 27| Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune
Secured PIN 

After insertion of both the correct SD card and the audit card, the operator will have to type in a PIN number unique to each EVM. The PIN will only be provided to the presiding officer, and if he is unable to perform his or her duties, the assistant presiding officer will receive the PIN and the necessary authorization.

Secured password protection

The assistant presiding officers can only operate EVMs after selecting their name and typing in a unique password—which they will receive through an SMS just before the scheduled voting. Operating the machine is nearly impossible without authorization.

Biometric security system 

The operators have to provide passwords and fingerprints to use the EVM. Thus, even if someone has the password, the individual will not have access to the machine without a matching finger print.

Voter identification 

After accessing the EVM, a list of voter data will be visible on the screen of the machine. Voters can be identified by three ways—smart cards, voter ID numbers, or finger prints. To identify voters, multiple options can be used, but fingerprint verification is mandatory.

Once a person submits his or her fingerprint, the unit will display information about that person on multiple screens. This feature will aid the polling agents to identify the voter. 

Also Read- Election Commission to buy 2,535 more EVMs

Protection against vote rigging 

There will be a fixed list of voters for every booth. A voter can only cast a ballot in his or her designated polling booth. A voter will be identified with the help of biometric verification and a National ID card, and only after passing this verification, the voter will be able to cast ballot.

Anyone attempting to cast a fake ballot will immediately be caught red-handed, as his or her voter information will not match the fingerprint, prompting the EVM to display an “error” message.

Vote rigging will be near-impossible even if a machine is hijacked.

Dual storage of data 

Information about ballots cast in an EVM unit will be stored in an internal data centre, and will simultaneously be backed up in an external memory card. If one unit malfunctions or gets damaged, the memory card can be recovered and inserted to another machine for continued operation.

A woman leaves the polling booth after casting her vote at a polling centre in Gazipur city on Tuesday, July 26, 2018| Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune
Zero risk of hacking 

The EVM units will not be connected to the internet, but to the Election Commission’s closed Nationwide Private Network (NPN). Using a closed network significantly lowers the risk of remote hacking attempts.

After voting is concluded, a result showing the number of votes cast will be printed out. The printout, if made before the scheduled vote, will show zero results, thereby ensuring fair elections. 

‘EVMs cannot be hacked remotely’

Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, SM Mahmud Arafat, Officer-in-Charge, Operations Planning, Identification System for Enhancing Access to Services (IDEA) said, “Some political parties have raised concerns regarding our new EVMs.

“They are worried that the new EVM units are susceptible to hacking attempts. But, I am confident that these EVMs cannot be hacked remotely, because these machines are not connected to the internet.”

Adding that there are some misunderstandings about the new EVMs, Arafat revealed that the IDEA is offering training to the representatives of various political parties that are participating in city corporation elections.

Also Read- EC goes heavy on EVMs in proposed amendment

“We have already showcased the features of our new EVM machines to the representatives of political parties in Khulna and Gazipur, and we will showcase our EVMs to any party that is interested in the future,” he said.

Meanwhile, Election Commissioner Brig Gen (retd) Shahadat Hossain Chowdhury said: “We are facing a minor problem with the biometric verification system, as some voters’ fingerprints did not match because of hand injuries. We are working to solve this issue.

Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) were used in the Khulna city polls on May 16, 2018| Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune
“The new EVM units feature a button to cancel a vote, if the voter desires it.”

Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, several Election Commission officials said the previous version of the EVM had six major issues.

These issues were: the lack of a system to cross-check and document voter ID cards, fingerprints, and the casting of  ballots; delayed publishing of the results of the vote due to technical glitches in the control unit; and low battery reserve of the EVM units.

The Election Commission currently has 300 sets of EVM units in their possession, ready for operation. One control unit and three ballot unit makes one set. The commission bought a total of 2,535 EVM units from BMTF.

The commission has also started a training program for field officials on using the new EVM units.

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