The long-awaited EVM Challenge to establish that the Electronic Voting Machines cannot be tampered will start from 3 June, Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi announced on Saturday. Political parties will have to apply by 26 May. The Election Commission doesnt expect anyone to win the challenge, the poll body says it is just to reassure political parties that have raised doubts about the machines used to conduct every Lok Sabha and state elections held after 2002. Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party, which has been the loudest of the dozen-plus political parties that has campaigned against the machines, isnt convinced yet.
Here are the top 10 facts in this story:
- The Election Commission has made it clear that political parties cannot change any component of the voting machine because, Mr Zaidi said, this would amount to manufacturing the device.
- Hours before the Election Commission's press conference, Aam Aadmi Party held a media briefing. Party spokesperson Ashutosh said, "EC is only demonstrating in front of media... We request EC once again, that they should not do anything which reduces peoples' faith in democracy."
- Last Friday, the Election Commission had met representatives of 42 political parties - seven national and 35 state-level - to discuss the reliability of voting machines and to seek suggestion from parties on how to conduct the 'hackathon'. After the meeting, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted, "Sad that EC has backed out of hackathon."
- The Aam Aadmi Party or AAP is leading the high-pitched allegation by the opposition parties that the electronic voting machines or EVMs being used currently were tampered with in the Uttar Pradesh assembly election to ensure that the BJP won with a high margin in the state. Mr Kejriwal also attributed his party's defeat in the Punjab assembly polls and the Delhi municipal polls to the alleged tampering of voting machines.
- Earlier this month, AAP leader Saurabh Bharadwaj gave a live demo in the Delhi Assembly to show that voting machines can be easily tampered with. The party said the machine used for the demo was created by IIT grads and tested by "EVM experts."
- The Election Commission said the machine used by AAP for the demo was "bootlegged."
- Mr Bharadwaj, 36, a former engineer told dailyaddaa, ""We are ethical hackers, we are trying to help them and show that these machines can be hacked and it's not rocket science."
- Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party found a common ground in their allegations that the EVMs were manipulated in the BJP's favour in the UP elections. Ms Mayawati had said she was ready to work with other parties to "save democracy." Akhilesh Yadav welcomed her offer saying,"There should be a grand alliance. We are in favour of it."
- Opposition parties have been demanding that the Election Commission return to the paper ballot system for a more transparent voting mechanism.
- The Centre had announced that the 2019 general election will be held entirely using the new, advanced VVPATs that print a paper receipt for each vote cast. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said 3174 crores were released for nearly 16 lakh VVPATs which will be ready by September 2018.