Election Commission has taken several steps to make the election process completely transparent this time. It involves use of EVMs, VVPAT machines, randomisation among other things to ensure a free and fair election.
Lok Sabha Election 2019: India’s apex election body has made unprecedented arrangements to conduct a free and fair Lok Sabha election as it faces scrutiny from almost all the possible quarters, including courts, media and civil society. Use of EVMs with VVPAT machine has become the most contentious issue, prompting the commission to resort to conduct mock polls, large scale randomization and use of GPS vehicles to remove the possibility of any foul play.
There are 10.3 lakh polling stations for over 90 crore voters in the country. However, number of EVMs is not fixed as each EVM is made of two units, a control unit and a balloting unit. Election Commission has arranged for 23.3 lakh balloting units (BUs) and 16.3 lakh control units (CUs). The commission has also arranged for 17.4 lakh VVPAT machines for verifying paper audit trail.
The commission has also made provisions for compulsory counting of papers slips in one randomly selected polling station in each assembly constituency in the 4 states where simultaneous assembly elections are taking place. Same procedure will be conducted in one polling station of each assembly constituency of every Lok Sabha constituency.
1. Large scale randomisation is the key
Election Commission has already conducted first level check of EVMs and VVPAT machines in presence of representatives of political parties. And it will also carry out second level of randomization of EVMs and VVPAT machines involving two different stages by using a new EVM Management System (EMS).
A. Two stage second level randomisation
In the first stage of randomisation, all the electronic voting machines (EVMs) and VVPAT machines stored in the district warehouse will be randomized by the District Election Officer through EVM Management System. In order to ensure transparency this stage of randomisation will be done in the presence of representatives of recognised political parties. This stage will involves assembly or segment-wise allocation.
Second randomization of EVMs and VVPATs will be done at the level Returning Officer. This randomisation will be done before feeding the data about candidates into EVMs and VVPAT machines. This stage is crucial as it will be done in the presence of general observers of Election Commission of India, contesting candidates and their representatives.
B. Second stage of randomisation
This randomisation process will be carried out after finalisation of the candidates. Even in this stage, the candidates or their agents will be allowed to check and satisfy themselves in every manner about the error-free functionality of the EVMs and VVPATs.
2. Mock Polls
This stage is crucial as Election Commission will conduct mock polls before the actual use of EVMs and VVPAT machines. These mock polls are conducted three times to ensure the integrity of the process.
Every VVPAT machine is also subjected to a mock poll with 96 votes and the paper slip count is cross verified with electronic count in EVMs.
In the second stage of mock polls, 5% EVMs will be randomly selected. One out of every 5 randomly selected EVMs will be cross checked with 1200 votes, remaining 4 randomly selected machines will be divided in two parts of two machines each. And these EVMs will be tested with one thousand and five hundred votes respectively.
First level of mock polls are already conducted. In the second level, mock poll will be conducted on each and every EVM and VVPAT at the time of commissioning of machines.
In addition, mock poll by casting 1,000 votes in 5% randomly selected EVMs, as well as VVPATs will be conducted and the electronic result will be tallied with the paper count. Candidates or their representatives are allowed to randomly pick any machine for this purpose and also to participate in the process.
3. Mock Poll on the Polling Day
Another Mock Poll will be conducted by the presiding officer at every polling station on the day of voting.
At least 50 votes will be cast at every polling station in presence of candidates or their representatives. And the electronic result of the control unit and VVPAT slips will be tallied and shown to candidates or their representatives.
After this stage, the presiding officer will press the ‘CLEAR’ button in presence of political representatives to show them that no data ofthe mock poll conducted on the day of voting has been recorded in the machine.
The officer will also ensure that mock poll slips are being taken out and kept in separate marked envelope before the start of election process.
4. Compulsory verification of paper trail
The commission has mandated that VVPAT slip count of one randomly selected polling station in the concerned assembly segment in case of Vidhan Sabha elections and one randomly selected polling station in each assembly segment of every parliamentary constituency is conducted across the country before declaration of results.
5. GPS fitted vehicles for transportation of EVMs and VVPATs
Election Commission has instructed chief electoral officers (CEOs) of all the states and union territories to ensure that movement of all reserve EVMs and VVPAT machines is carefully monitored at all times. It has directed that the vehicles of all sector officers with reserve EVMs and VVPATs must be fitted with GPS tracking system.