Election Commission in a press conference on Himachal Pradesh elections informed that the elections in the state will be held on November 9. EC further stated that the vote counting will be done on December 18. Interestingly, the EC said that his time, along with the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), VVPAT machines will also be used. CEC AK Jyoti during the press conference on Himachal Pradesh polls said that the height of voting compartments will be increased to 30 inches. Ahead of the polls, Jyoti further said that the model code of conduct for Himachal Pradesh assembly election comes into effect from now itself. He added that bulk SMSes and voice messages on phone shall also be in the purview of election advertisements.
Amidst controversy over the alleged tampering of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in the Assembly elections this year, the Union Cabinet led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi had earlier approved a proposal to buy 16,15,000 Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) units for use in the General Elections 2019. Each VVPAT unit were to cost around Rs 19,650 and the total cost of procurement would be around Rs 3173.47 crore (excluding taxes and freight as applicable) over a period of two years.
The VVPAT will apparently be sourced from Bharat Electronics Ltd, Bangalore and Electronics Corporation of India Ltd, Hyderabad. The Election Commission would place the order to two manufacturers, depending upon their production capacity so that all the VVPAT units can be procured by September 2018, according to a Cabinet release. The use of VVPAT is expected to bring more transparency to the electoral process.
Here we discuss what is VVPAT, why it is needed and the chronology of events leading to the use of VVPAT in India:
What is VVPAT?
A Voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) unit provides feedback to voters using EVMs for voting. The VVPAT functions as an independent verification system for EVMs and allows voters to verify that their votes are cast as intended. It also serves as an additional barrier to changing or destroying votes.
How a VVPAT unit works
VVPAT device functions like a printer attached to the ballot unit and kept inside the voting compartment. When the voter presses the button against the name of the candidate of her/his choice on the EVM unit, the VVPAT unit generates a paper slip, also called ‘ballot slip’. This paper slip contains the name, serial number, and symbol of the chosen candidate. The voter can see this slip through a screened window where it stays for seven seconds and then it automatically gets cut and falls into a sealed drop box. Thus, the ballot slip neither goes into the hands of the voter nor others get to see it.
The Ballot Slip can only be accessed by the polling officers in the rarest of the rare cases.
Benefit of VVPAT
The use of VVPAT gives the voter an opportunity to challenge her/his vote on the basis of the paper receipt for the first time. As per a new rule, the booth presiding officer has to record the dissent of the vote, which needs to be taken into account at the time of counting.
Was VVPAT needed because EVMs can be manipulated?
No. The VVPAT system was part of the up gradation of the EVM system.
Events leading to the use of EVM in India
October 4, 2010: During a meeting with the EC, political parties suggested the use of VVPAT to provide an additional layer of transparency to the satisfaction of voters.
July 2011: On the recommendation of a Technical Experts Committee, a field trial was conducted in Thiruvananthapuram, Delhi, Jaisalmer, Cherapunjee and Leh in the presence and participation of all stakeholders including general voters, national and state political parties, civil society organisations, and media.
February 19, 2013: The Technical Expert Committee approved the final design of the VVPAT units. This was preceded by a second field trial of prototype VVPAT system in Delhi, Thiruvananthapuram, Leh, Jaisalmer and Cherapunjee in July-August, 2012.
— Frank Noronha (@DG_PIB) April 19, 2017
August 14, 2013: Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 was amended to facilitate the introduction of VVPAT units. Later, 20,300 VVPAT units were purchased by the ECI.
2015: Order for 67,000 additional units was placed, out of them 33,500 units have been supplied by the manufacturers.
September 2013: For the first time, VVPAT with EVMs was used for the Noksen Assembly seat in Tuensang district of Nagaland.
October 2013: In the case of Subramanian Swamy vs Election Commission of India (ECI), the Supreme Court held that VVPAT is “indispensable for free and fair elections” and directed the ECI to equip EVMs with VVPAT systems. The apex court directed the EC to introduce EVMs in a phased manner for the next General Elections in 2014, saying it would ensure free and fair polls. SC also directed the Centre to provide financial assistance for introducing VVPAT system.
In accordance with the SC order, the EC ordered VVPAT systems to be used in the New Delhi assembly of the Delhi assembly elections. The pilot project was launched across 186 polling stations, catering to 1,18,596 registered voters.
(With PIB inputs)