Sunday, May 9, 2010

Scrap EVMs & introduce paper ballots: Save Democracy Org. writes to ECI.

Electronic Voting Machines

Satya Dosapati
Save Indian Democracy Organization
New Jersey, USA

Date: May 5, 2010
Ph: +1 732 939 2060 (US)
Websites: , ,

Mr. Navin Chawla, Chief Election Commissioner
Mr. S.Q Quraishi, Election Commissioner
Mr. V.S. Sampath, Election Commissioner
Election Commission of India
Nirvachan Sadan
Ashoka Road, New Delhi 110001

Dear Mr. Navin Chawla, Mr. S.Q. Quraishi, Mr. V.S. Sampath,

Our Organization Save Indian Democracy, consisting of active volunteers from India and the Indian Diaspora all over the world , was in earlier communication with you regarding our concerns on the usage of stand alone EVMs and their rejection across several countries in the world. We had presented you the statement regarding Indian EVMs by Stanford Dr. David Dill who is considered a pioneer in election reform in United States along with a personal letter of invitation to Mr. Chawla to visit Stanford to learn more about the EVM issues. We have brought in the best world wide known international experts to India to attend various conferences and Press Meet and had extended invitation to you and the Expert Committee to meet with the experts. Our organization have even extended invitation to you to come to US at our expense. This is in addition to various Indian Organizations and activists who have been working hard to bring your attention to the issue for several months.

However, none of this elicited any response from you. You have not engaged in any meaningful and honest debate other than bland assertions that Indian EVMs are not proven tamperable without subjecting them to any honest scrutiny in India or internationally. You have kept from public that the patent submitted on the Indian EVMs to World Intellectual property Organization was withdrawn because they found all the 21 claims for patent are worthless (ref 1). The recent exposure of the real Indian EVMs with the help of international and national experts (ref 2) show that what we had feared all along is true and the many reports of issues both by individuals and the political parties during last few elections are on strong foot hold.

We know that ECI is serious about protecting Indian democracy and are hopeful that ECI will engage into an honest debate on the issues of electronic voting. Unfortunately all the efforts made so far to bring to your attention the serious threat to democracy of
India was met not only with disregard but continuation of campaign of misleading the country.

As Dr. Dill and several others have asserted tamperability and insider tampering of stand alone EVMs are biggest threat to any country's democracy. With Corruption Perception index of India by Transparency International same as that of war torn African country Rwanda, the recent expose' of ease of tamperability of real Indian EVMs in combination with high risk of insider tampering puts a great urgency in addressing the issue.

Save Indian Democracy will continue to take further actions through various international and national Organizations to protect our democracy. Note that a paper on real Indian EVMs is already scheduled to be presented at one international conference by well known expert Rop Gongrijjp from Netherlands (ref 3).

1) Expose the tamperability of real Indian EVMs in several international conferences..

2) Expose the ease of tamperability of real Indian EVMs to countries India is selling the EVMs, particularly Nigeria, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Namibia, Mauritius, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangla Desh. We are already in touch with Nigeria where the Election Commissioner was recently sacked for corruption.

3) Explore and pursue bringing awareness to the Indian EVM issues to various international human rights and election watch bodies.

4) Work closely with other Indian counterparts to bring awareness to Indians about the rejection of stand along EVMs around the world, the vulnerability of Indian EVMs etc

We sincerely hope the ECI would take further immediate actions. We look forward to cooperate and assist in any sincere efforts. Some of the actions ECI may pursue are:

1) Engaging in an honest debate with an open mind on tamperability of Indian EVMs and the risk of insider tampering and explore ways to make Indian elections accountable and verifiable.

2) Learn and understand the status of stand alone EVMs across the world and why even the most advanced countries rejected them due to reasons of transparency, tamperability and insider tampering. (Note that, notwithstanding IT boom in India, the research on EVMs in India is minimal).

3) Recognize that even the countries with far less corruption than India and have reputable Electoral bodies are extremely concerned of insider tampering and have effectively done away with stand alone EVMs.

4) Bold enough to reintroduce the paper ballots unless a well proven method could be found to make elections more secure.

With best regards,

Satya Dosapati
Save Indian Democracy



1) Technical paper on how to tamper a real Indian EVM at (being submitted at Chicago and other international conferences)

2) Video on how to tamper a real Indian EVM by Rop Gongrijjp, Hari Prasad, Alex Halderman. Visit: (scroll down)

3) Withdrawal of patent application of EVM made at World Intellectual Property Organization, , look under claims for 21 claims for patent and under National Phase showing withdrawn.



Related articles:-

Dr Subramanian Swamy on how EVMs are not tamper-proof:-

EVMs are not tamper-proof -- Dr. Subramanian Swamy

A fine analysis by Mr P.Senthil Raja on how the recent Indian elections could have been tampered using the EVMs:-

Indian elections – a mega rigging with EVMs??

Organiser article:-

EVM hackers can steal ballots


April 12, 2010

EVMs can be manipulated in elections: Election Commission

The Election Commission of India has made an amazing confession: that the security and integrity of the entire election system will be compromised if the EVM software and the hardware design becomes known.

This is what technologists, activists and political leaders have been saying for many months now and the Commission had steadfastly refuted such claims with a bizarre “our EVMs are fully tamper proof” claim.

The above revelation was made by the Election Commission in a letter dated March 30, 2010 to V.V. Rao, petitioner in the Supreme Court on the EVMs. I quote below:

”…The Commission is concerned that commercial interests could use the route of reverse engineering (a process by which the original software and hardware configuration can be accessed) which may compromise the security and sanctity of the entire election system.”

“…It is once again made clear that any demonstration of alleged tamperability cannot include reverse-engineering as it compromises security and sanctity of the entire election system.”

Reverse engineering is the process of discovering the technological principles of a device through analysis of its structure, function and operation. It often involves taking a device and analyzing its workings in detail to make a new device or program that does the same thing without utilizing any physical part of the original.

In a nutshell, the concept behind reverse-engineering is to break something down in order to understand it and build a copy or improve it. This process was originally applied only to hardware. Reverse-engineering is now applied to software.

There are many instances of reverse engineering by academicians and ethical hackers to unravel the EVM software and understand its hardware configuration. Scientists across the world resort to reverse engineering to expose the vulnerabilities of the electronic voting systems. This is indeed necessary to plug the security holes in voting systems which can be exploited by miscreants. Many such successful attempts have attracted international attention and led to reform in electronic voting systems. One such experiment happened a few months ago.

Computer Scientists Take Over Electronic Voting Machine with New Programming Technique

San Diego, CA, August 10, 2009 — Computer scientists demonstrated that criminals could hack an electronic voting machine and steal votes using a malicious programming approach that had not been invented when the voting machine was designed. The team of scientists from University of California, San Diego, the University of Michigan, and Princeton University employed “return-oriented programming” to force a Sequoia AVC Advantage electronic voting machine to turn against itself and steal votes.

The Election Commission of India now openly admits that the security and integrity of the entire election system may be compromised if anybody reverse engineers the ECI-EVMs.

This statement of the Election Commission raises several questions that impinge on India’s electoral democracy.

1. Why has the Election Commission repeatedly misled the nation so far repeatedly claiming that its EVMs are tamper proof and unriggable?

2. Given that for a reverse engineering operation, one requires access to only a single machine of each make/ model (there are only four models in use), what is the guarantee that people have not gained unauthorized access to EVMs? Over 13 Lakh EVMs are lying all over the country in the districts and it is easy and simple to get a few of them.

3. Manufacturers, software programme developers, other employees, private foreign companies involved in software fusing etc. have access to the machine software and hardware specifications. What is the guarantee that they have not used such knowledge to “fix” elections in the country? In the light of the ground level reports that such insidious operatives are at work, isn’t it silly to make such assumptions? (Refer my book “Democracy at Risk: Can we trust our EVMs?” for vivid accounts of such murky operations.)

4. Ironically, even the Election Commission and its experts committee have not examined the software in the EVMs. The Experts Committee has only done functional testing of the EVMs, referred to as the Black box testing, which is highly unreliable for security testing. What is then basis for the Election Commission’s confidence in the reliability of the EVMs?

5. Why has the Election Commission chosen to blindly trust the EVM manufacturers when it has a splendid record in taking officials involved in elections to task for even minor aberrations? Is it its helplessness or lack of technical familiarity that made it blindly trust the manufacturing PSUs?

6. Why did the Election Commission allow the EVM manufacturers to share the software programme with foreign manufacturers of micro chips who in turn mask the chips which makes it impossible for even the manufacturers to read back the software contents?

After this latest admission, one would have hoped that the Election Commission would reform the voting system to make it absolutely secure. Perhaps, that is too much to expect from the Election Commission. This becomes evident from the Election Commission’s affidavits in the Delhi High Court rebuffing suggestions of transparency and auditability by introducing voter verified paper print out of all votes cast on EVMs.

This is my first blog on the subject.

Will update you regularly with the latest news and analyses.


If you have any questions or comments, write to me at

1 comment:

jayasree said...

US scientists hack into India’s EVMs, expose flaws

Uttara Choudhury / DNA
Monday, May 24, 2010 1:53

NEW YORK: India’s electronic voting machines (EVMs) with chips made in Japan and the US were designed to stop fraud and accelerate the voting process, but computer scientists say these paperless machines are vulnerable to fraud.

Professor J Alex Halderman of the University of Michigan and his computer science students say they were able to hack into the EVMs to manipulate results.

Halderman, who led the seven-month research project, with a security researcher from the Netherlands and Hyderabad’s NetIndia, said a home-made device allowed them to change results on an EVM by sending it wireless messages from a mobile phone.

“Almost every component of this system could be attacked to manipulate election results,” said Halderman. “This proves, once again, that the paperless class of voting systems has intrinsic security problems. It is hard to envision systems like this being used responsibly in elections.”

A video on the Internet by the researchers shows two kinds of attacks. One attack involves replacing a small part of the EVM with a look-alike component that can be silently instructed to steal a percentage of votes in favour of a candidate. The instructions can be sent from a mobile phone.

“Our lookalike display board intercepts the vote totals that the machine is trying to display and replaces them with dishonest totals — basically whatever the bad guy wants to show up at the end of the election,” Halderman told reporters.

Another attack uses a pocket-sized microprocessor to change the votes stored in the EVMs between the election and the public counting session, which in India can be weeks later.

India uses roughly 1.4 million EVMs in 829,000 polling stations in a general election and they are of the direct recording electronic (DRE) variety. The EVMs record votes to the machine’s internal memory and provide no paper records for any recount. The researchers said that with DRE machines too much “absolute trust” is placed in the hardware and software of the EVMs.

Rop Gonggrijp, a security researcher from the Netherlands, who participated in the study, slammed the paperless electronic voting system. “The research shows the longstanding scientific consensus holds true — DRE voting machines are fundamentally vulnerable.

The machines have been abandoned in Ireland, the Netherlands, Germany, Florida and many other places. India should follow suit,” he said. The researchers have offered to share their findings with India’s Election Commission.