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Electronic Voting Machine: A Brief History

Utkarsh Classes Last Updated 19-04-2024
Electronic Voting Machine: A Brief History Election 8 min read

The responsibility of conducting polls to elect members of the Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies in India is entrusted to the Election Commission of India (ECI) by our Constitution. ECI has implemented several measures over time to guarantee fair and unbiased elections. To further this objective, the introduction of Electronic Voting Machines is a significant step towards achieving transparent and impartial elections.

How did EVM come about?

  • Sham Lal Shakdher, the former chief election commissioner (CEC) from 1977 to 1982, played a vital role in the Election Commission of India's (ECI) transition from ballot paper and boxes to electronic voting machines (EVMs). 
  • There were several potential reasons for this change. Shakdher had previously served in the Lok Sabha secretariat and had witnessed the use of electronic voting in House proceedings since the late 1950s. This experience may have led him to believe that electronic voting could be beneficial in general elections.
  • One issue that may have also prompted the shift was the problem of booth capturing, where armed individuals would storm a polling booth and stuff the ballot box with votes favoring a particular candidate. In the 1977 general elections, 29 parliamentary constituencies experienced forcible ballot paper stuffing.
  • The use of ballot paper and boxes posed logistical challenges as well. A ballot paper was required for every voter, and the steel boxes needed regular maintenance, such as anti-corrosion treatment and painting, despite being a one-time cost.
  • In 1977, Sham Lal Shakdher, the chief election commissioner (CEC), visited Electronic Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) in Hyderabad. 
  • He urged the government to explore the possibility of using electronic gadgets in elections. 
  • Shakdher was prompted to bring this change due to the problem of booth capturing, logistical issues with the existing voting method, and his experience with electronic voting in the Lok Sabha.

The first prototypes

  • In 1980, the Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) delivered a prototype of a simple electronic voting machine to the Election Commission of India (ECI). 
  • The machine used a mains power supply with six buttons connected to six chips, where each button corresponded to a candidate in an election. 
  • The machine recorded all the votes, and the ECIL design linked it to a control mechanism placed in front of the election officials. 
  • After demonstrating the machine's effectiveness to different political parties, it received a favorable response. Advani suggested that ECI should field test the machine in urban, rural, and tribal areas, which was accepted, and booth capturing was mentioned as a separate issue from the machine's effectiveness. ECI showcased the machine to Indira Gandhi and other ministers by year-end.
  • The media's coverage of Bharat Electronics Limited's (BEL) voting machine caught the attention of S Rangarajan, a manager of research and development at BEL. 
  • Rangarajan contacted the Election Commission of India (ECI) and offered the BEL voting machine, and the commission commissioned BEL to develop a prototype. BEL's machine was designed differently from ECIL's machine and allowed for up to 64 candidates.
  •  In April 1981, ECI held a demonstration of the BEL prototype, which was considered a "distinct improvement." Following ECI's recommendation, the government sanctioned the funds to procure EVMs, and the ECI deployed EVMs in an assembly by-election in Kerala.
  • The first EVMs were used in the Paravur assembly seat in May 1982. The trial was successful, with some instances of malfunctioning. The success of the trial led to the use of EVMs in 10 more by-elections. 
  • The design and technical aspects of EVMs were standardized, and the machines were manufactured by both ECIL and BEL. Based on the learnings from these elections, the Election Commission of India recommended the nationwide use of EVMs in its 1983 annual report.

Overcoming challenges

  • The Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) were first introduced in India in 1982. However, in 1984, the Supreme Court held that without legislative backing, EVMs could not be used in elections. 
  • This put the EVM programme in cold storage for two years. In 1986, the Chief Election Commissioner arranged a demonstration of EVMs before the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs headed by then-prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. 
  • Gandhi suggested a timing device regulating the pace of voting could partly address the booth capturing problem. In 1988, Parliament passed a constitutional amendment allowing the use of EVMs.
  • The machines were first used in general elections of Lok Sabha in 2004 and have since played a critical and efficient role in Indian elections. Over a million EVMs will be deployed across India in the next six weeks. 
  • The EVMs are the result of decades of work by engineers in two government firms. The ECI has worked to improve procedures to ensure EVMs are more efficient and can be deployed across the country in general and state elections.


Answer: 1982

Answer: 2004 General elections of Lok Sabha
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