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Indian EC prepares for bigger VVPAT count on May 23

  • Published at 02:50 pm May 10th, 2019
INDIA-ELECTION/
Polling officials seal an Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) and a Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machine at a polling station after the end of the first phase of the general election in Alipurduar district in the eastern state of West Bengal, India, April 11, 2019 Reuters

For the first time in Lok Sabha polls, EVM results will be matched with paper trail machine slips

As it prepares for the mammoth exercise of counting of votes for the Lok Sabha polls, India's Election Commission (EC) has stated that in case of a mismatch between electronic voting machines (EVM) and voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) machine counts, the latter will be held valid. 

Though matching EVM results with VVPAT slips has been used in various assembly elections, this is the first time it will be undertaken in the Lok Sabha polls, reports The Economic Times. 

Citing rule 56 D (4) (b) and 60 of the Conduct of Election Rules, a senior Commission functionary said instructions have been issued to all state chief electoral officers that—in case of a mismatch between the result displayed on the control unit of electronic voting machine and the manual count of slips generated by the VVPAT—slips will be recounted until the tally matches either the EVM result or one of the previous VVPAT slip counts, and this will be taken as the final result. 

According to the EC, no mismatch has been reported since the practice of cross-checking votes was introduced. 

As the Supreme Court, on Tuesday, made it clear that random matching of VVPAT slips with EVMs will take place in five polling booths per assembly segment, the exercise will be held in 20,600 of the 1,350,000 polling stations on May 23 – when votes for the Lok Sabha elections are counted. 

A top official said it used to take an hour when slips of one VVPAT machine were counted in one polling station per assembly segment. "Four additional VVPATs will take, on average, four additional hours to count," he said. 

The official results will take at least four more hours to be declared. 

India has 4,120 assembly seats. Multiplied by five, the paper audit trail checks will take place in 20,600 polling stations spread across these assembly seats. 

"The number of voters varies from 800 to 2,500 per polling station," another functionary said.

 Since Union Territories—such as Chandigarh, Daman and Diu, Lakshadweep, Andaman and Nicobar, and Dadra and Nagar Haveli—do not have state assemblies, five polling stations will be randomly selected. This will mean another 25 polling stations. 

A cautious approach by the EC, thin margins of leads, and the counting of paper trail machine slips were some of the key factors that led to the delayed poll results in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh in December last year. 

With parties questioning the veracity of EVMs, the poll panel was extra cautious in its approach. 

The Chief Electoral Officers—of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Mizoram—were reminded of an old rule that they had to provide round-wise results to candidates without fail. 

Referring to its April 2014 instructions, the poll panel said observers and returning officers would sign candidate-wise results for each round after checking everything. 

The system ensured that very few demands were made for a recount, but it delayed the counting process. 

The panel has set up nearly 1,350,000 polling stations in the country for the seven-phase election, as compared to nearly 928,000 during the 2014 polls – an increase of 10.1%. 

Nearly 3,960,000 EVMs and 1,740,000 VVPATs are being used in these polling stations. These include reserves. 

One control unit and at least one ballot unit where buttons are placed constitutes an EVM. 

After votes are cast, the polling station where VVPAT slips are matched with EVM results is decided by a draw of lots, or lottery system, in the presence of the candidates. 

A VVPAT machine is a device that dispenses a slip with the symbol of the party for which a person has voted. 

The slip appears on a small window for seven seconds and then drops into a box. The voter may not take it home.