The Election Commission was capable of holding the Lok Sabha elections and polls to four state assemblies together in December if the parliamentary elections are advanced, Chief Election Commissioner O P Rawat said today. His comments came when asked whether the EC was ready if the LS elections are held in December along with Assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram and Rajasthan. But Rawat emphasised that the question of advancing Lok Sabha polls is “hypothetical and totally speculative as the term of the House is not ending in the next six months.”
He also said the polls in the states will have to be held before December 15 and the paper trail machines which EC will get in October and November cannot be used and would create “severe constraints”. While the term of the Mizoram Assembly will end on December 15, the terms of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan assemblies would end on January 5, 2019 January 7 and January 20, 2019, respectively.
Asked whether the required electronic voting machines (EVMs) and paper trail machines would be ready if the LS polls are held in December along with those of four assemblies, the CEC said while all the required EVMs would be in place by September end, paper trail machines would come in November end. The CEC explained that out of 17.5 lakh paper trail machines, 16 lakh would be in place before November.
The remaining 1.5 lakh paper trail or voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines would be delivered by the end of November. “As you had sought to know, if LS elections are held in December, which is totally speculative, then the first level check (FLC) of the 1.5 lakh VVPATs (which EC would get in November end) would not be possible to have adequate reserves,” he said. While the EC needs EVMs and VVPATs for 10 lakh polling stations for the LS polls, it needs the two devices for two lakh polling stations in four states where Assembly elections would be due in December.
“There would be a serious constraint on the reserves. Instead of 135 per cent (reserves), will have to go for 130 per cent, if the situation arises,” Rawat said about VVPATs. Voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) or paper trail machine is a device which dispenses a slip with the symbol of the party for which a person has voted for.
The slip appears on a small window for seven seconds and then drops in a box. But the voter cannot take it home. The VVPAT are used in all polling stations. But as of now, results of EVMs and VVPATs are matched in one polling station per constituency. There have been demands to increase the number of polling stations where EVM and VVPAT results are matched to dispel fears about electronic voting machines being “hacked” to favour a particular political party.
Rawat said there have been delays in the delivery of paper trail machines as the Technical Experts Committee appointed by it analyses the technology stabilisation issues in the initial batches and incorporates essential design improvements.
“This ensures we don’t face the problems later,” he said. While all required EVMs — 13.95 lakh ballot units and 9.3 lakh control units — will be delivered by September 30, 17.15 lakh VVPATs will also be delivered by the end of November, he added. Over 11 per cent of the 10,300 VVPAT machines across 10 states had developed faults and had to be replaced during the May 28 bypolls.