Trust deficit: Opposition’s demands on VVPAT counting unjustified

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Published: May 22, 2019 3:15:13 PM

Election 2019 Results: The opposition parties have been pressing for several changes in the counting process, however, some of their demands are not justified.

Twenty-two opposition parties are pressing for matching of VVPAT slips before counting of votes on EVM.

Lok Sabha Election 2019: The demand of opposition parties for matching the printed voter slips with EVM results before the start of counting process cannot be justified. As per the existing practice, election officials will match the EVM results with VVPAT slips after the completion of the counting process.

As per the earlier formula, the election commission was to tally VVPAT slips with the results displayed in EVMs for one randomly selected polling station in each assembly constituency of the 542 Lok Sabha seats. It means one polling station for each of the 4120 assembly seats in the country.

There cannot be more than 1400 votes in any polling station as the paper roll attached to VVPAT machines could not print more than 1,500 slips. The Election Commission had estimated that nearly 100 paper slips will be printed in tests and mock polls, therefore, it restricted the number of voters per polling station to 1400.

The demand of opposition parties for matching the printed voter slips with results displayed on EVMs before the start of counting process may not be justified. As per the existing method, election officials will match the results with VVPAT slips after completion of the counting process, but it is not enough to satisfy the opposition parties that are demanding the completion of matching process before the start of counting.

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As per the earlier formula, election commission was to tally VVPAT slips with the results displayed in EVMs for one randomly selected polling station in each assembly constituency of 542 Lok Sabha seats. It means one polling station for each of the 4,120 assembly seats in the country.

There cannot be more than 1,400 voters in any polling station as the paper roll attached with VVPAT machines could not print more than 1,500 paper slips. Election Commission had estimated that nearly 100 paper slips will be printed in tests and mock polls therefore it restricted the number of voters per polling booth to a maximum of 1,400 voters.

There are 90.99 crore eligible voters in the country and around 10.3 lakh polling stations. Therefore average voter number per polling booth turns out to be 883. Since the country has recorded highest polling percentage in 2019 Lok Sabha election that has been pegged at 67.11% or over 61 crore voters, the average number of actual votes polled per polling booth works out to be 592 voters.

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As per the earlier formula, the election commission was required to tally approximately 24.39 lakh voters given average 592 voters per booth. According to election officials, matching of VVPAT slips of one polling station requires an hour therefore the declaration of results would have been delayed marginally.

However, unsatisfied with this formula, 21 opposition parties jointly moved to the Supreme Court demanding matching of VVPAT slips in half of the polling stations.

The apex court directed the election commission to match the VVPAT slips of at least 5 polling stations in each assembly constituency of all 542 Lok Sabha seats. It means, that now the commission will have to tally the results of VVPAT machines of five polling stations in each of over 4,120 assembly seats in the country, that works out to be 20,600 randomly selected polling stations.

On an average 592 votes have been cast per polling station in this election. Therefore the total number of votes that will have to be tallied using both VVPAT slips and the results displayed on EVMs will be nearly 1.22 crore votes or more instead of 24.3 lakh votes under the earlier formula that would have taken just an extra hour.

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Under the new formula, extra five hours will be required to complete the matching of VVPAT machines with EVM results. It will push the result declaration to late night on May 23.

After Supreme Court refused to entertain the opposition’s plea for matching at least half of the VVPAT slips before declaration of results, they have been demanding that matching of VVPAT slips be conducted before start of counting.

Their demand will delay the start of counting process by 4-5 hours. Any difference in VVPAT count and EVM results will provide ready ammunition to the opposition parties to press for adjournment or cancellation of counting process even before it starts, thereby delaying or derailing the entire poll process.

The election commission has been using VVPAT (Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail) since 2017 and the system has not failed so far in a single case.

Even otherwise, the election commission has decided that in case of discrepancy between the results displayed in EVMs and the result obtained through VVPAT slips, the result of VVPAT slips will prevail and any defeated candidate has the right to question the result by filing an election petition in the concerned high court within 45 days of declaration of results.

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