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VVPAT EVM ‘s and Section 56-d of the Conduct of Election Rules

Context: CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, in a letter to Chief Election Commissioner, has urged the panel to carry out a 100% tally of all EVM machines with Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) for the coming Assembly elections.

  • Earlier, in 2019, the Supreme Court dismissed a plea of 21 Opposition parties to review its judgment rejecting the request for 50% matching of VVPATs with EVM counting, but increasing the physical counting of slips from one to five randomly selected EVMs in each Assembly segment or constituency.

Analysis

  • In case a candidate or election agent disputes the announced results of any polling station(s), they can seek scrutiny of VVPAT (EVM) slips under Section 56-D.
  • The provision states that after the entries made in the result sheet are announced, any candidate, or in his absence, his election agent or any of his counting agents may apply in writing to the returning officer to count the printed paper slips in the dropbox of the printer in respect of any polling station or polling stations.
  • On such application being made, the returning officer shall, subject to such general or special guidelines, as may be issued by the Election Commission, decide the matter and may allow the application in whole or in part or may reject in whole, if it appears to him to be frivolous or unreasonable.
  • The returning officer’s decision has to be in writing and must contain the reasons for accepting or rejecting the request.
  • If any discrepancy between the votes displayed on the control unit and the counting of the paper slips is detected, the slip count prevails and accordingly, the results are amended and announced after following the set procedures.
  • There have been 16 such instances of slip counting since 2017. In all cases, it was a 100% match of EVM results and VVPAT slips.

VVPATs

  • VVPAT device functions like a printer to be attached to the ballot unit (EVM).
  • It allows the voter to verify if their vote has indeed gone to the intended candidate or not.
  • When the voter presses the button against the name of the candidate of his choice on the Ballot Unit, the VVPAT unit generates a paper slip, called Ballot Slip.
  • This paper slip contains the name, serial number and symbol of the chosen candidate.
  • The voter can see this slip through a screened window where it stays for seven seconds, and then it automatically gets cut and falls down into a sealed drop box.
  • In this process, the slip will not go into the hands of the voter nor will others be able to see it.
  • For the first time Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) with Electronic Voting Machines was used for the Noksen Assembly seat in Tuensang district of Nagaland in September, 2013.

Supreme Court Verdict on VVPAT EVM

  • In the recent past, the Supreme Court ordered mandatory verification of printed VVPAT paper slips of 5 randomly selected polling stations of
  • (a) Assembly Constituency in case of election to State Legislative Assembly and
  • (b) each Assembly Segment in case of election to the House of the People.

Electronic Voting Machines

  • The EVMs have been devised and designed by Election Commission in collaboration with two Public Sector undertakings viz., Bharat Electronics Ltd., Bangalore and Electronic Corporation of India Ltd., Hyderabad. The EVMs are now manufactured by the above two undertakings.
  • EVMs were first used in 70-Parur Assembly Constituency of Kerala in the year 1982.
  • EVMs run on an ordinary 6 volt alkaline battery manufactured by Bharat Electronics Ltd., Bangalore and Electronic Corporation of India Ltd.,
  • Therefore, even in areas with no power connections, EVMs can be used.
  • An EVM being used by ECI can record a maximum of 2,000/3840 votes (because of 2 different sources on ECI website).

Which of the following can be found on the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs)?

  • 1. Name of the candidate
  • 2. Election symbol
  • 3. None of the above (NOTA) option
  • 4. Photo of the candidate
  • Note: Name of the Constituency is not mentioned.

What is the maximum number of candidates which EVMs can cater to?

  • In case of M2 EVMs (2006-10), EVMs can cater to a maximum of 64 candidates including NOTA.
  • There is provision for 16 candidates in a Balloting Unit.
  • If the total number of candidates exceeds 16, more balloting units can be attached (one per 16 candidates) up to a maximum of 64 candidates by connecting 4 Balloting Units in series.
  • However, in the case of M3 EVMs (Post 2013), EVMs can cater to a maximum of 384 candidates including NOTA by connecting 24 Balloting Units.

With ballot boxes counting is done after mixing the ballot papers, is it possible to adopt this system when EVMs are used?

  • Yes, through the use of a device called ‘Totalizer’ which can accommodate upto 14 Control Units at a time to aggregate votes without revealing the candidate-wise count of individual EVM used at a particular polling station.
  • However, totalizers are not in use at present as its technical aspects and other related issues are under examination and it is also the subject of a court case

Benefits of EVMs

  • The votes recorded until the stage when the EVM went out of order will be safe in the memory of the Control Unit. It is not necessary to start the poll from the beginning.
  • By booth-capturing, if one means, taking away or damaging of ballot boxes or ballot papers, this evil cannot be prevented by the use of EVMs as EVMs can also be forcibly taken away or damaged by miscreants.
  • But if one looks at booth capturing as a case of miscreants intimidating the polling personnel and stamping the ballot papers on the symbol and escaping in a matter of minutes, this can be prevented by the use of EVMs.
  • The EVMs are programmed in such a way that the machines will record only five votes in a minute.
  • Further, it will not be possible to record any vote when once the ‘close’ button is pressed and this will frustrate the efforts of the booth-capturers.
  • It is also possible to use EVMs for simultaneous elections for Parliament and State Legislative Assembly.
  • However, during simultaneous elections 2 separate sets of EVMs are required, one for the Parliamentary Constituency and the other for the Legislative Assembly Constituency.
  • Voting by EVMs is simpler compared to the conventional system.
  • EVMs work on a 6-volt battery and there is absolutely no chance of any voter getting an electric shock at the time of pressing the `blue button’ or at any time of handling the balloting unit.

Some other Advantages of using EVM ‘s

  • Huge savings by way of cost of paper, printing, transportation, storage and distribution.
  • Counting is very quick and the result can be declared within 2 to 3 hours as compared to 30-40 hours, on an average, under the conventional system.
  • There are no invalid votes under the system of voting under EVMs.
  • To this extent, the choice of the electorate will be more correctly reflected when EVMs are used.
  • Does the use of EVMs slow down the pace of poll? No, in fact the pace of poll is quickened by the use of EVMs.
  • The Control Unit can store the result in its memory for 10 years and even more.

High Court quashes CIC order on EVMs

  • The Delhi High Court quashed an order of the Central Information Commission (CIC) which had held that EVMs fall within the definition of ‘information’ under the RTI Act.
  • The Court passed the order on a plea by the Election Commission (EC) challenging an order of the CIC that held that EVM is an information under the RTI Act.
  • The CIC’s order had come on a plea by an applicant, who had sought access to an EVM maintained by the EC under the RTI Act.
  • The EC had said that EVMs do not fall under the scope of the RTI Act, which is primarily concerned with documentary records and representative models.

 

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