Random vote count to put foul play claims to rest

Random vote count to put foul play claims to rest

Bengaluru: With the ruling Congress airing concerns over possible tampering of electronic voting machines (EVMs), the Election Commission of India has decided to take up random verification of votes in the upcoming Assembly elections in a bid to quell claims of foul play.

The ruling Congress, including Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, want ballot papers instead of EVMs for the polls. IT Minister Priyank Kharge, too, has shot off a letter to the ECI demanding error-testing of 250 EVMs.

The 2018 polls will see the introduction of Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines, on which voters can see the votes they cast on a printout.

"To raise voter confidence, the Election Commission has taken a decision to tally votes cast on the EVM with the VVPAT. This will be done in one polling booth selected randomly in every constituency," Chief Electoral Officer Sanjiv Kumar said. "Votes will be tallied in the presence of election agents of different parties. The printouts will be put in a container and they will be tallied with the EVM readings," he added.

This was done in 182 polling booths across 182 constituencies in Gujarat last month. Officials said, "there was a 100% match in the results of the EVM and the slips produced by VVPAT machines."

According to Kumar, the decision to tally EVM readings with paper trail slips was voluntary. "One of the national parties approached the Supreme Court seeking counting of the paper trail slips. It was prayed that at least one-third of the votes should be counted, but the plea was rejected. But the EC has taken a decision on its own just to show there's no possibility of anything going wrong."

Kumar said an EVM has three parts - a processing unit, a ballot unit and the VVPAT. "The VVPAT has a glass window on top. After the vote is cast, the machine prints a physical slip. For six seconds, the slip comes to the surface where the voter can see the vote. They are printed in permanent ink that can be preserved for five years. They can be verified any time during any dispute before a court or the district election officer," Kumar said.

In his January 2 letter to Chief Election Commissioner Achal Kumar Jyoti, Kharge proposed an EVM challenge jointly hosted by the state government and the ECI, where stakeholders from the scientific community can test the EVMs.

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