With an intention to increase the credibility of electronic voting machines (EVM), the Election Commission of India (EC) has now made it mandatory to tally paper trial slips with the results of EVMs in five per cent of polling booths in every assembly seat, for all state and Lok Sabha elections in the country. As per a report by Indian Express, the counting of paper trail slips will happen in only 14 polling stations which and less that five booths in every assembly seats respectively. The selection of these polling booths will be done randomly.
However, the aforementioned announcement made by the EC will somehow delay the election results by three hours. The report also states that the EC has already decided to link all the EVMs with the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines in the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections which is scheduled to be held by the end of this year. “VVPAT machines produce a printout of the vote cast using an EVM. The printed ballot slip is deposited in a box and can be used to resolve any dispute regarding the election,” the report added further.
As off now the tallying of VVPAT slips with EVM results is not compulsory and is done only when the results of a polling booth are disputed by any candidate or an agent on the vote counting day. Keeping that in mind, a final decision on the same is been made by the returning officer on whether to accept the candidate’s request to also count the VVPAT slips.
Indian Express report further mentioned that the call to make the counting of paper trail slips mandatory was approved by the full Commission before Nasim Zaidi who retired as the Chief Election Commissioner on July 5. The decision was taken keeping in mind the requests made by several political parties during an EC meeting held on May 12. The meeting was organised to address the claims made by Opposition parties who questioned the infallibility of EVMs after the recent assembly elections held in states like Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Uttarakhand.
During the meeting, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader and Delhi’s deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia asked the EC to count the paper trail slips in as much as 25 per cent of the voting stations in every constitution on the day of results to impart a legitimate voting process. As per India Express sources, EC’s final decision on the definite percentage of polling stations whose VVPAT slips should be counted was due to the delay it would cause in announcement of the election results.
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Speaking about the same, a source on the condition of anonymity said, “It takes about three hours to count the printed ballot slips of one VVPAT. On the day of the results, the RO (returning officer) counts votes of 14 EVMs (14 polling stations) together in every round. This means VVPAT slips of 14 polling stations can be tallied with their respective EVMs in one round over roughly three hours. It was felt that delaying the announcement of results by more than three hours would not be advisable. So a maximum limit of 14 and a minimum limit of five polling stations has been imposed,”
As per reports, the EC is soon expected to come up with some instructions on the changes it made in the counting process to all the chief electoral officer in the country.