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EC to meet parties on introducing paper trail of votes

New Delhi, May 5, 2013, PTI :
A first time voter, Maria Wajid, 18, scratches her head as she prepares to vote inside a polling station in Bangalore, India, Sunday, May 5, 2013. The southern Indian state of Karnataka which has 41.8 million voters including 21.3 million women headed to the polls Sunday. There are 2948 candidates contesting for 224 seats where about 65,000 electronic voting machines will be used to cast votes, Indian election commission said. AP Photo.

Voters may soon be able to trail their ballot and confirm whether their vote on the Electronic Voting Machine has gone in favour of the candidate they chose.

The trail will involve issuance of a printed slip for voter confirmation and will become a reality once the newly proposed Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) system is introduced by the Election Commission.

The system comes in the wake of apprehensions expressed by political parties especially the BJP in respect of fairness of EVMs.

The EC, which told the Supreme Court last week that it had recently approved the VVPAT design and sought its further fine tuning to ensure zero error, has invited the representatives of various political parties on May 10 to discuss the new system.

Highly-placed sources in the Commission told PTI that in will get around 250 prototypes of printers in first week of June to be attached with Electronic Voting Machine (EVMs) for getting a verifiable paper trail that is set to be tested for trial in a bye-election thereafter.
The new system will not be tested in the June 2 bypolls.

Top sources in the Election Commission said the new system may not be implemented in the next general elections across the country as around 13 lakh such new devices are required to be attached to each EVM and entails an expenditure of around Rs 1700 crore.

The Commission has, however, sought the opinion of various political parties on the new system and invited them to its office in this regard on May 10.

Under the new system, a voter, by pressing a button in the EVM, will get a printed slip with the name of the candidate, his party and serial number in whose favour the vote has been cast.

The voter can thus see and verify his vote through this system, but will not be allowed to take the slip home in order to ensure the secrecy of the ballot.

While some political parties have favoured the paper trail of votes, others who have long been pressing the poll body for introducing reforms in the present EVM system are hesitant to formulate their opinion on it before testing its efficacy.
BJP favours early introduction of the paper trail of votes, but its ally JD-U is yet to formulate an opinion on it.

"We are in favour of the paper trail of votes and have been asking the EC to introduce the new system in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls after removing its shortcomings.
"We have been demanding changes in the EVMs. Voters should know in whose favour he is casting his vote," BJP Vice President Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi told PTI.

Congress, though favours the idea, has also not made up its mind on the new system and said it will discuss the issue once it ascertains the efficacy of the system.

"Let us see how the new system works. We would consider it and then make a comment," said Congress Spokesperson Rashid Alvi.

His party colleague and head of the legal cell K C Mittal said, "Apparently the idea looks good. We will discuss the issue and then formulate our opinion."

JD-U President Sharad Yadav also said, "We will first see the new system and then give our opinion."

CPI Secretary D Raja said the Left parties have been seeking enhancement of the credibility of EVMs and this seems to be one solution in this regard.

"EVMs have come to stay in our electoral system. Doubts in the minds of people have arisen whether the machines can be tampered with or not. This seems one solution on how to enhance the credibility of EVMs and the confidence of people in them. If there are other solutions that can also be worked out," Raja said.


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