The Election Commission of India on Sunday announced seven-phase polls to elect the 17th Lok Sabha. While the first phase will be held on 11 April, the last phase will be held on 19 May. The counting of votes will be held on 23 May 2019. In a major decision taken by the apex election body, all polling stations across India will be equipped with Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPATs) along with Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).
This decision comes at a juncture when Opposition parties have been raising concerns over alleged tampering of EVMs. Last month, senior leaders of the Opposition approached the Election Commissioner of India seeking that at least 50 percent of EVM results should be matched and cross-checked with VVPATs before the final results are declared.
While the Chief Election Commissioner has not given any assurance on the Opposition's demand for verification of the results with VVPATs, this will be the first time that VVPATs will be used alongside EVMs in all the phases of the Lok Sabha elections.
What are VVPATs?
VVPATs act as the second round of verification in the electoral process, wherein the electoral officers ensure the vote polled by a voter goes to the correct candidate. Last year, the Election Commission reiterated its commitment to bringing in VVPATs in all future Assembly, by-elections and Lok Sabha elections.
Who manufactures these VVPATs?
In 2018, the apex election body placed an order for 17.45 lakh VVPATs. These VVPATs will be procured from Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), Bengaluru and Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL), Hyderabad – both being Public Sector Undertakings.
How do VVPATs work?
When voters will press the button on the EVM to vote for their choice of candidate, the VVPAT will print a slip confirming who they have voted for. The voter slip will contain the name of the candidate, serial number and the symbol of the political party. The voter will be able to verify and confirm his or her vote through the slip.
Once the voter has cast the vote, he or she will be able to see the confirmation slip through a glass case in the VVPATs. This slip will only be visible to the voter for seven seconds before dropping into the sealed box in the VVPAT. After this, a beep will be heard signalling the end of the voting process.
It is to be noted that only polling officers are allowed to check the VVPAT machines.
A voter is allowed to inform the authorities in the room if he or she finds any discrepancy in the vote cast on the EVM and the information printed on the slip. However, if the claim is found to be false, then the voter may be imprisoned for six months or fined Rs 1,000 or both under Section 177 of the Indian Penal Code.
Supreme Court backed VVPATs in 2013 directive
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, VVPATs were only used on an experimental basis. In that election, VVPATs were used in eight of the 543 Lok Sabha constituencies. This action was taken after the Supreme Court of India urged the Election Commission to bring VVPATs into the electoral exercise in a phased manner.
"With an 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 Supreme Court's judgment said.
The first-ever use of VVPAT was recorded in a 2013 by-election for the Noksen Assembly seat in Nagaland.
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Updated Date: Apr 02, 2019 10:51:00 IST