The Election Commission on Monday dismissed as exaggeration the reports about large-scale malfunctioning of the EVMs and the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) devices during by-elections in three Lok Sabha and nine state assembly constituencies across the country.
“News reports surfacing in the media alleging 'large-scale' failure of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and VVPATs in the ongoing by-elections and interruption of the elections in the states of Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh are an exaggerated projection of reality,” the EC stated in a press release.
A joint delegation of the Rashtriya Lok Dal, the Samajwadi Party and the Congress and a separate delegation of the BJP representatives met the EC on Monday and brought to the notice of the poll panel the concerns about the functioning of the VVPAT machines in some of the polling booths during by-elections.
The commission assured them that all necessary action would be taken on the issues raised by the representatives of the political parties.
The EC also issued directions that all the electors who were in the queue in the polling booth at the time of close of poll should be facilitated to cast their votes.
The EC also assured the delegation that the concerns related to the VVPATs had been verified on the ground and appropriate actions had been taken by the district election teams. The commission had also informed that further action would be taken on the basis of reports of returning Officers, district election officers and the observers.
The EC clarified that it allocated sufficient reserves of the EVMs and the VVPATs for every General Election or by-election to the Lok Sabha or state legislative assemblies. “It is pertinent to mention that during commissioning of the EVMs and VVPATs, apart from the EVMs and VVPATs required for deployment at every polling station, the adequate number of reserve EVMs and VVPATs (around 20-25%) are prepared to replace any defective machine on poll day at the polling station,” it said.
The poll-panel stated that the reserve EVMs and VVPATs were kept with sector officers, who replaced the defective machines in case they received reports from the polling stations about malfunctioning of the devices
“Since each sector officer is entrusted with only 10-12 polling stations, the time taken to replace any EVM or VVPAT at a polling station is normally less than 30 minutes. The replacement of defective EVMs or VVPATs during actual polls is a normal process and does not vitiate the integrity or credibility of the poll process in any way whatsoever,” the EC clarified.
The poll-panel said the reports about polling being cancelled in 35 booths in 11-Bhandara-Gondiya Parliamentary Constituency in Maharashtra were not based on facts. Besides, it added that the reports emerging in some quarters about the EVMs or VVPATs were failing in 25% polling booths in the same parliamentary constituency was also incorrect.
“However, as and when a report from the RO or DEO or from the Chief Electoral Officer regarding long interruption of polling is received, the commission takes a decision on those matters on the case-to-case basis.”
The EC stated that it undertook a comprehensive examination and root-cause analysis of all the defects observed in the machines through the Technical Experts Committee of the Commission and necessary remedial actions were being taken for smooth conduct of the poll process.
The EC said that the factors responsible for malfunctioning of the VVPATs might “include first-time use by polling staff whereas they have developed expertise in managing EVMs, extreme heat, placement of VVPAT under direct light and mishandling during use."
The EC conducts root cause analyses in such cases to improve for future, it added.