The question at hand is whether the VVPAT should be counted first: a controversy that has been going on for long called the EVM controversy. Seeing as it comes under the Current Affairs of India, it is essential for us to understand what exactly this controversy entails and all the details that follow so that we can form in informed opinion.
To begin with, we need to know the basic full forms: EVM stands for Electronic Voting Machine whereas VVPAT stands for the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail. Now, let us delve into the details!
What is the EVM and what is its history?
As I had just mentioned, EVM stands for Electoral Voting Machine. It is an electronic machine, which can be easily deducted from the name itself, that helps implement electronic voting. It has completely replaced the local ballot elections, which were conducted using little pieces of papers.
It is now used for all types of elections: Local, State or even Parliamentary elections. EVM was first introduced in 1982, when it was used in the 70th Parvur Assembly constituency in Kerala. It has multiple advantages over the old system of secret ballot. Here are some of the advantages of the Electronic Voting Machine:
- The possibility of votes going in waste is minimised. In the EVM, there are both audio and visual indications as to which candidate the voter has cast his vote for. When the voter verifies by both seeing and hearing it correctly, he can press a blue button, which will then verify that vote. After that, a light bulb will glow brightly, the candidate’s name will turn red and a long beep will be heard. Then only the voter can know for sure that his or her vote has been recorded.
- Secondly, the EVM reduces the wastage of paper. Since the whole process is done electronically, there is no need to print the ballot papers out. Due to this, the overhead cost of printing, transporting, storing and distributing is completely cut out, which removes a large burden of expenditure.
- In addition, the counting process is much quicker and can be completed in only a few hours, rather than the days together spent to count the slips of papers. Also, the scope of invalid votes is reduced or rather eliminated, which would never be possible over the paper ballot system.
The only problem with the Electronic voting Machine is that it is not completely tamper-proof. In fact, this issue of reliability has been being raised since 2001, but the Election Commission had then ruled out the scope of manipulation of votes using the EVM machine. Now that information of tampering with the device has come to light, it had to be rectified. This is where the VVPAT machine comes in.
What is VVPAT and its history?
VVPAT, as I mentioned before, stands for Voter Verified Paper Trail Audit. It is built in such a way as to give instant feedback to the voter, through a small printed slip. Hence, it verifies whether the candidate has been able to place a correct vote, that is to say, that the candidate’s vote has been placed as wished for. This specific machine is unfortunately used only in some elections.
The reason why the VVPAT is so handy and useful is because it completely prevents the possibility of tampering with the Electronic Voting Machine, which was suspected during this year’s elections.
Here is the process of using it. After the voter presses the button to confirm his or her vote, be it for a specific party or if the voter chooses the “None of the above” option, a little paper slip is printed with the voter’s choice and the symbol of the party chosen. This slip is then dropped into a sealed box.
The box is, however, transparent, so that the voter can verify to see that the information on the slip is correct. Then in seven seconds, the slip is further dropped into a storage box. This action is confirmed by the sound of a beep. The slip can then be accessed only by the polling booth members and polling officials, but not the voters.
In the 2019 Indian General Election, the VVPAT was used for 543 Lok Sabha Constituencies. The machine was first introduced in the 2014 General Elections to not only improve voter confidence, but to also ensure complete transparency.
The place of location it was first used in is Goa. Last year, the Chief Election Commissioner stated that there would be a 100% uses of VVPAT machines in all polls. An approximate of 16.5 lakh machines were used in the 2019 General Election.
What is the EVM controversy about?
At present, the VVPAT recount is fixed at one random Electronic Voting Machine per Constituency for both the Lok Sabha and the General Assembly. A recount is a repeated tabulation of the votes cast in an Election which is used to determine the correctness of the original or initial count. It is often done only when the initial tally of votes is very close, with an extremely tiny range of margin between two or more political parties.
However, as of late, the Opposition parties have been asking for a fifty-percent recount of Voter Verified Paper Audit Trails, which will lead to having to recount at least 125 Electronic Voting Machines in each of the constituencies.
The Election Commission has responded to this plea by saying that if this 50 % recount of VVPAT is carried out, the counting and tallying process will be delayed by a whole six days. Obviously this count is too much. So the Supreme Court replied to the Opposition Parties, 21 parties in all, that the VVPAT recount would be done for 5 Electronic Voting Machines instead of only 1 per constituency.
In spite of this, the Opposition Party has filed a review plea, and asked for the VVPAT recount rate to be increased to a minimum of twenty-five to thirty-three percent. This plea was shot down almost immediately by the Supreme Court.
My Opinion about the EVM Controversy
In my personal opinion, I agree with Mr. Srinivasan Namani, the National Editor of “The Hindu” newspaper. The increase in the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail Recount from one Electronic Voting Machine per constituency to 5 in each, seems to be a sufficient measure to ensure that the machines have not been tampered with.
It significantly reduces the chance of that happening.The Opposition parties seem to be barking up the wrong tree. Instead of devoting their efforts to an increase in the rate of the recounts, they can instead devote that same time and effort into the other serious issues that have been going on almost for a whole decade without being rectified.
Some of these issues include the voter registration, which could be handled and done in a way more efficient manner, seeing as there are thousands of people who have been completely left out of the electoral rolls. This indeed is a crucial issue. There is also the issue of implementing the model code of conduct properly.
These issues seem to be neglected while all attention is focused solely on the Electronic Voting Machine controversy, whereas in reality, the EVM issue seems to have blown over with all the precautions that are being taken already.
Admittedly, no amount of precaution is enough when it comes to deciding who should hold the power over an entire nation, a nation as wonderful as our India. Yet, why should all the efforts go only to one perspective, when there are so many more, probably much more crucial issues that need to be dealt with properly first.
In conclusion, I do not think that the VVPAT should be given any further thought or effort than what has already been spend and dedicated to it. In the meantime, these hours of work should be better spent on more important things that are demanding for attention.