- The Election Commission in the recent times had received a memorandum from political parties demanding that the paper ballot system be reintroduced for greater transparency during elections.
- The Supreme Court of India had directed the Election Commission to introduce VVPAT in Lok Sabha Elections to improve voter confidence and ensuring transparency of voting. It was used in some phases but not in the entire polling process.
VVPAT in Gujurat:
- The Election Commission of India (EC) will use Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) gadgets with Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) in all voting booths in Gujarat, which goes to the Assembly polls at the end of this year.
- This is the first time an entire assembly poll will be conducted using the EVMs equipped with VVPAT.
- Gujarat will be the second state after Goa to use the VVPAT system for assembly elections.
- VVPATs have been used in some elections in a bid to counter all allegation of tampering.
- However the Election Commission’s decision to deploy the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail system for Gujarat Assembly elections is questionable.
What is VVPAT?
- Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines are used during election process to verify that the vote polled by a voter goes to the correct candidate.
- VVPATs are a second line of verification particularly and are particularly useful in the time when allegations around Electronic Voting Machines’ tampering crop up.
- VVPAT system gives instant feedback to the voter showing that the vote polled has in fact been allotted against the candidate chosen.
The Entire Process:
- After a voter presses the button on the EVM against the chosen candidate, the VVPAT prints a slip containing name of the candidate and the election symbol and drops it automatically into a sealed box.
- The machines give the chance for the voter to verify their vote. The machine is placed in a glass case in a way that only the voter can see it.
- The slip is displayed to the voter for seven seconds after which the VVPAT machine cuts it and drops in into the storage box with a beep.
- The machines can be accessed, though, by the polling officials and not by the voter.
- The implementation of VVPAT was to have been undertaken by the EC in a phased manner, but this year its blanket use appears to have been expedited after a series of unwarranted attacks on EVMs by some political parties.
- The EC had sought to allay concerns and confront allegations of voter fraud by running through the administrative and technological safeguards instituted to keep EVMs and the voting process tamper-proof.
VVPAT & EVMs
- The introduction of VVPAT and the audit process should allay some of the doubts raised by EVM naysayers, but this is a costly process and should not become the norm going forward. There is need for EC to rapidly transit to third-generation, tamper-proof machines, which must be thoroughly tested and vetted by experts before deployment.
- The EC’s use of a standalone, non-networked machine that runs on a single programmed microchip shows that India’s simple but effective EVMs were ahead of the curve compared to the alternatives used elsewhere in the world. I
- n developing countries such as India, electronic voting, with basic features, may be the most optimal way of increasing the number of valid votes. This, in turn, could enable greater participation of the disadvantaged and the poor.
- This does not imply that EVMs, especially the outdated models and the ones without audit-trails, are foolproof.
- But in a country like India with a long history of electoral fraud and booth-capturing, basic EVMs could be much more welfare-enhancing than paper ballots.
- Many advanced democracies used networked EVMs, which raised the question of remote manipulation through viruses and malware, compelling many of them to revert to paper ballots.
- The EC has so far demonstrated that the voting process is robust and its machines are continually upgraded to meet possible challenges, but there are other concerns regarding the use of technology that it must be aware of.
- The Supreme Court bench said that EVMs with VVPAT system ensure the accuracy of the voting system.
- With intent to have fullest transparency in the system and to restore the confidence of the voters, it is necessary to set up EVMs with VVPAT system because vote is nothing but an act of expression which has immense importance in democratic system.
- The case for reverting to paper ballots is based largely on fears and conspiracy theories, and on unfair comparisons with developed democracies such as the Netherlands and France.
- The costs of such a move should not be underestimated.
- It must continue to keep its processes decentralised and accountable.