EVMs can be tampered, experts sayStaff Correspondent
Electronic voting machines could be easily tampered to manipulate elections results, a group of foreign experts said at a seminar in Dhaka on Tuesday.
A standing committee member of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, Abdul Moyeen Khan, in the seminar said that the party would make some prototypes of the EVMs the Election Commission made to show the people how the device could be tampered.
Non-governmental organisation Centre for Sustainable Development organised the seminar, ‘Electronic voting machines: use and abuse,’ at the Lake Shore hotel in the city.
The organisation’s secretary general Mahfuzullah conducted the seminar and its president Anwar Hashim, also a former ambassador, presided over the programme.
Computer science professor in the University of California Mathew Allen Bishop, senior software architect of Yahoo in India Shashank Shekhar and research and development director of Hewlett Packard of the United States Shawn Islam made presentations in the seminar highlighting how EVMs could be tampered.
All the three experts said the EVMs could be tampered in several ways in a short span of time to manipulate the elections results in favour of a certain candidate if the manipulators would get physical access to EVMs.
Citing an example of the flaws of the EVM used in the United States and in other parts of the world, Bishop said the EVMs, electronic devices which need software to function, could be easily tampered.
Bishop, however, asked the authorities concerned to look into certain issues before using EVMs.
‘When votes are counted, how do you know that the button pushed to vote for scales on the ballot unit is in fact counted as a vote for scales?’ he said.
Bishop also said, ‘How do you know that the software is correct? There are no bugs that affect the vote counting? How do you know that the software on the EPROM chip is the version that is supposed to be used? There was no malware?’
He said the security of the software running the EVM must be part of the inbuilt design of the device.
Earlier, Shawn Islam, a Bangladeshi-American, demonstrated how a vote cast for a candidate could be stored for the candidate the voter did not vote for through software manipulation effected beforehand.
Both of the experts said that there be a system of paper trail of the votes cast so that the voters could see that their votes were stored for the candidate they voted for.
‘But,’ Shawn Islam added, ‘the EVMs developed by Bangladesh do not have any option to add the paper trail system.’
He claimed that the EVM developed in Bangladesh have plenty of problems.
Shashank said that there was no electronic device in the world which could not be tampered.
All of the experts said that the device must be tested by a third party before its use.
In reply to a question whether the EVM can be manipulated with remote control devise without physical intervention once EVMs are tested and certified by the experts of the political parties just before the elections, Shawn said, ‘You must have physical interventions to manipulate it if the EVM does not belong to any wireless network.’
When a reporter asked Abdul Moyeen Khan whether the BNP would accept it if EVMs were tested by their experts, the BNP leader parried the answer saying that the party would develop some EVM prototypes to show how they could be tampered.
Representatives from the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, including its acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, the chairperson’s advisers Iqbal Hasan Mahmud, Sabiuddin Ahmed, Ruhal Alam and opposition chief whip Zainul Abdin Farroque, attended.
Speaking on the occasion, former Dhaka University vice-chancellor Moniruzzaman Mia, BRAC University professor Piash Karim and Sushaner Janya Nagarik secretary Badiul Alam Majumder stressed the need for building trust among political parties before introducing any new device in the elections process.
The country’s two major political camps are now at loggerheads over the introduction of EVMs in the next polls.
The ruling Awami League-led alliance said that it would extend all cooperation to the Election Commission in using EVMs in the next general elections while the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led alliance vowed to resist the move.
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