Use of EVMs In 2019 Poll

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 21 Aug 2018 15:00:03

In the Gujarat elections last year, the Congress started blaming the EVMs for their loss just hours after the election trends became clear, and alleged that the BJP won the polls by unfair means.


FIRST came the ballot papers, then electronic voting machines, then paper trails. Will the wheel turn full circle now? Many Opposition parties are of the view that EVMs are not foolproof, as has been touted, and can be manipulated to vote for a certain party and candidate as, they allege, has been done by the ruling BJP. The malfunctioning of the voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines in recent elections have strengthened their conviction that EVMs have to be done away with, and hence there is a need to revert to the “good old” system of ballot papers.

The case against EVMs was in the making for quite sometime but gained ground when BSP chief Mayawati, whose party was wiped out in the 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, alleged massive tampering by the BJP. Since then, many Opposition parties-- from the Congress to Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party and from Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress to Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party and from Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena to Sharad Pawar’s NCP-- have been speaking against the EVMs.

In the Gujarat elections last year, the Congress started blaming the EVMs for their loss just hours after the election trends became clear, and alleged that the BJP won the polls by unfair means.

Then came the bypolls to four Lok Sabha seats, including the sensitive Kairana in UP, and nine Assembly seats across 10 States, and a “very high” percentage of VVPAT machines malfunctioned either minutes before the polling started or during the polling. Even when the voting was underway, Opposition parties and the ruling BJP moved the Election Commission alleging that “hundreds” of EVMs and paper trail machines deployed for Kairana and Noorpur bypolls developed snags and were not replaced for hours.
The Opposition parties, which were till then blaming the EVMs and demanding cross verification of at least 25 per cent of VVPAT with the EVM votes polled, now apparently lost hope with the paper trail machines also, and started asking for reversion to the ballot paper system. Mamata Banerjee is in the forefront of the campaign and has managed to unite 17 parties to demand that the 2019 Lok Sabha elections be conducted through ballot papers.

But it seems the Election Commission is in no mood to relent. It is convinced of the tamper proof of the EVMs and had even challenged the political parties to hack the machines in a mock trial which nobody took up. As for VVPAT machines, the malfunctioning, according to the poll panel, was due to technical reasons which it is fixing.

It was found that the paper trail machines malfunctioned in recent elections because they were placed directly under light which fell on their contrast sensors. It was also found that a certain type of paper roll soaked humidity, resulting in the failure of the paper to move properly on the spool of the machine while printing the results.

“We made simple changes ... a small hood has been installed on the contrast sensor so that even if it is placed under direct light, it would not malfunction.... We have also procured humidity-resistant paper for humid areas,” says Chief Election Commissioner O P Rawat. Many experts, including former chief election commissioners, are for EVMs and opine that going back to paper ballots makes no sense.

“VVPAT is a credible system by which the voter knows whom he has voted for and his ballot slip has gone into a box which can be retrieved at any time in case of a dispute for verification. It does the job of paper balloting that leaves an audit trail,” says former CEC T V S Sampath.
Another former poll panel chief, speaking in favour of the EVMs and VVPAT, recalls the many serious issues with the ballot papers. Firstly, it is not an environment-friendly method and it needs cutting of innumerable trees, he say.
Secondly, ballot system involved a large number of invalid votes. If a voter failed to put the stamp correctly, if the stamp touched the margins, the vote would be deemed invalid, which resulted in disputes at the time of counting. Also, the counting of votes took a very long time.

He says the ballot system also saw several instances of booth capturing and ballot box being stuffed with forged papers that led to frequent countermanding of polls.
The EVMs, on the other hand are tamper-proof, unless one gets hold of one and change the motherboard. But that is next to impossible as one will need to steal a very large number of machines and then restore them back to the high-security EC strong room, they say.

These are the reasons why the Election Commission is adamant on EVMs and voter trail machines as these bring transparency to the voting process. And it wants to conduct the 2019 Lok Sabha polls through EVMs and VVPAT and are confident of procuring more than 16 lakh VVPAT machines required for the elections by this November end. But the Opposition is adamant too. Let’s see who prevails. Will the wheel turn
full circle?