CPI(M) general secretary in a letter to Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora, has urged the panel to carry out a 100% tally of all EVM machines with Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) for the coming Assembly elections.
What are VVPAT machines?
The voting in India is done using the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) that is designed with two units: the control unit and the balloting unit.
• The balloting unit of the machine has a list of candidate names and party symbols with a blue button next to it. The voter can press the button next to the candidate’s name they wish to vote for.
The Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail is a method that provides feedback to voters. It is an independent verification printer machine and is attached to electronic voting machines. It allows voters to verify if their vote has gone to the intended candidate.
How do VVPAT machines work?
When a voter presses a button in the EVM, a paper slip is printed through the VVPAT. The slip contains the poll symbol and name of the candidate. It allows the voter to verify his/her choice. After being visible to the voter from a glass case in the VVPAT for seven seconds, the ballot slip will be cut and dropped into the drop box in the VVPAT machine and a beep will be heard. VVPAT machines can be accessed by polling officers only.
Why is the VVPAT necessary?
The EC began to introduce EVMs on an experimental basis in 1998, and it was deployed across all State elections after 2001. EVMs have made a significant impact on Indian elections. Prior to the deployment of EVMs, elections were held with ballot papers. In some States, the election process was vitiated by rigging, stuffing of ballot boxes and intimidation of voters. Besides this, ballot paper-based voting resulted in the casting of a high number of invalid votes — voters wrongly registering their choices instead of placing seals, and so on.
- The Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail is a method that provides feedback to voters.
- It is an independent verification printer machine and is attached to electronic voting machines.
- It allows voters to verify if their vote has gone to the intended candidate.
- Under VVPATs, initially, election results are announced based on the recording of votes given by EVMs. If the election results are disputed, then the votes recorded under Paper Trail System shall be counted and announced.
- If there is any discrepancy between the two results, then the result given by VVPAT will prevail over the EVMs.
What problems have been encountered?
- There can be cases when the VVPAT prints wrong information. In such cases, voter can report it to the presiding officer who will take a voter declaration explaining that if found false, voter can be penalised.
The officer will then let the voter cast a test vote in front him and other poll officials. If voter’s claim is found false and the VVPAT is printing the right slip, the test vote will not be counted.
However, if the claim is found true and the VVPAT it faulty, then the presiding officer will stop the poll and report to the returning officer.In the initial phase of VVPAT implementation in the Lok Sabha by-elections in States such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra and the Assembly election in Karnataka, there was a high rate of failure of VVPAT machines due to manufacturing glitches.
- In the Lok Sabha by-elections in 2017, the rate of VVPAT replacement, owing to glitches, was more than 15%, higher than the acceptable rates of failure (1-2%). In Karnataka, the failure and replacement rate was 4.3%. Coincidentally, the failure rate of the EVM unit (excluding the VVPAT) was very low. These glitches also caused severe disruptions to polling. To account for failure rates, the EC has tried to provide back-up machines to allow for swift replacement. The EC admitted later that the machines had high failure rates owing to hardware issues that occurred during the transport of EVMs and their exposure to extreme weather conditions. It sought to correct these problems by repairing components related to the printing spool of the VVPAT machines