After a string of defeats, the Opposition is now raising concerns over the authenticity of the results through Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). The Opposition's fears arose after an EVM machine only accepted votes for the BJP during a mock drill in Madhya Pradesh.
A united Opposition took this opportunity to move the Election Commission to complain about the irregularities and seek a return to paper ballot system. However, the EC dismissed their fears and called the voting machines foolproof.
A delegation of Opposition MPs met the president on Wednesday and submitted a memorandum alleging EVM tampering during the Assembly election.
Political editor Sanjay Singh in his article said that the Opposition's mindset "shows the kind of anxiety that is there among a section of its leaders over the party leadership's rent-a-cause attitude, irrespective of the veracity of the issue, its degree of popular support and potential pitfalls".
However, not all in the Opposition ranks are happy with the openly belligerent attitude against electronic voting.
Senior Congress leader and former law minister Veerappa Moily took exception to his party's stance and said, "EVMs, we know very well. Even during our period (UPA), we got them tested. EVM is not the reason. Just because you are defeated? Only the defeatist people will blame EVMs, otherwise, there is no point... This populism will destroy your base. Congress should not go for populism. Just because somebody in some region took up the issue, I don't think you (Congress) should play second fiddle to them."
The divide in non-Congress parties too. Kendrapara BJD MP Jay Panda slammed the Opposition's chorus for scrapping EVMs. Panda argued, "Those who demand a rollback to paper ballots are wrong, and forget why we moved on from them. After all, despite the real risks of road accidents, we don't abandon motor vehicles and go back to horse-drawn carriages. Instead, we implement safety measures like speed limits, seat belts and helmets."
Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh too rebutted those protesting against EVM rigging. On being asked on the raging issue, he said, "If EVMs were fixed then I wouldn't be sitting here. The Akalis would be."
Nevertheless, while the Opposition is insisting on going back to paper ballots — India held voting in this manner before 2004 — there has not been much brainstorming on voting systems devoid of EVMs.
On Wednesday, P Chidambaram, while speaking to the press said,"All political parties at some time or the other have serious doubts over the EVMs. Then you should look for alternative. The alternative does not exclude an EVM. It says EVMs plus VVPAT or EVM plus ballot. We are proposing several alternatives."
Here are a few ways in which voting is conducted across the world:
Voter-verfiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) is one of the systems which the Congress urged the EC to look at. VVPAT has been used in India too, but only on a pilot basis.
One of the benefits of VVPAT is that the authorities can keep a printed record of the votes polled. This can help the authorities to count the votes manually if there is a dispute in the electronically polled votes.
27 states in the United States require VVPAT by law.
However, the technicalities and the frequent glitches involved in the system makes it difficult to use on a wider scale across the country.
According to the US Federal Election Commission, punchcard system involves a card and a small clipboard-sized device for registering the vote.
On its working, the website states, "Voters punch holes in the cards (with a supplied punch device) opposite their candidate or ballot issue choice. After voting, the voter may place the ballot in a ballot box, or the ballot may be fed into a computer vote tabulating device at the precinct. The locations at which holes may be punched to indicate votes are each assigned numbers. The number of the hole is the only information printed on the card. The list of candidates or ballot issue choices and directions for punching the corresponding holes are printed in a separate booklet."
There are two types of punch cards: Votomatic and Datavote. However, it is the Votomatic system which is still used in some parts of the country.
In the 2012 presidential elections, this system was used by many voters. Nevertheless, the system gained notoriety after the system led to recount of votes in Florida after the 2000 presidential elections.
DRE voting system
DRE (Direct-recording voting system) is popular across the world and is used widely in the US, where about one-third of the population votes using the DRE machine.
In fact, countries like Brazil, Germany and Finland have been using the DRE voting system.
In this system, the voter will directly choose the candidate through a touch screen. A voter can also deselect the name of the candidate, a right not available in EVMs, and re-enter a new choice. The machine asks for a confirmation before the voter can block his vote. The machine also prints a receipt of the vote.
With prime minister Modi pitching for digital India, the idea of internet voting can be utilised in India.
Countries like Estonia, France, Canada, Switzerland have used this system effectively. Online voting began on a small scale in Gujarat, during the municipal elections in October 2015.
However, issue of privacy and the idea of 'secret ballot' can be compromised unless foolproof measures are taken to safeguard online voting.
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Apr 13, 2017 12:53:36 IST