The buzzword on everyone's lips right now is VVPAT. The counting of these slips is the newest addition to the world's costliest election. It may delay the results by a few hours. But what is VVPAT and how is it related to EVMs? What role does it play in the electoral process? And why would it cause a delay? Here's a primer.
What is VVPAT?
Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) is a method of providing feedback to voters using a ballotless voting system. VVPAT is a verification system for voting machines designed to allow voters to verify that their vote was cast correctly and to provide a means to audit the stored electronic results. It contains the names of the candidates for whom votes have been cast.
How is it related to EVMs?
Once a voter comes to the EVM booth, a polling officer presses the ballot button to activate it after verifying his/her photo identity. When the voter casts his/her vote, a slip comes out from the VVPAT machine which shows the symbol of the party voted for. If the EVM has any technical glitch, the party symbol on the slip coming out of the VVPAT will be different from the one voted for. The voters, therefore, must check that the symbol of the party they have voted for on the slip is the same one they pressed on the EVMs.
What role does it have in our electoral process?
The EVMs are checked through VVPATs by conducting mock polls on three occasions.
- “Each and every EVM and VVPAT is checked once by slip verification during the first level check. Thereafter, 5% of the EVMs are selected at random and subjected to higher scrutiny through a mock poll, along with slip verification of 1,200 votes for 1%, 1000 votes for 2% and 500 votes for 2% percent of the EVMs,” according to an affidavit by the Election Commission.
- EC conducts the second mock poll on EVMs and VVPATs along with verification of slips during the setting of candidates on the EVMs in the presence of candidates or their representatives.
- A third mock poll is conducted with slip verification of at least 50 votes on EVMs and VVPATs on the polling day in the presence of polling agents.
What is the Election Commission’s stand on the issue?
The EC has time and again reiterated that EVMs cannot be tampered with. It has made public the findings of inquiries into specific charges of tampering in Madhya Pradesh’s Bhind and Rajasthan’s Dholpur that give a clean chit to the machines.
What does the Supreme Court say?
The Supreme Court on April 13, 2017 asked the Centre to respond by May 8 to a plea by the BSP to comply with a 2013 Supreme Court directive to introduce a paper trail in EVMs. In 2013, the SC asked the EC to introduce paper trails in EVMs in a phased manner for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Could yielding to the opposition demand have delayed the election results further?
The EC on Wednesday rejected the demand from 22 opposition parties to first verify voter paper trail (VVPAT) slips before counting of votes for the Lok Sabha elections on Thursday.
Had the EC considered the opposition demand, it would have faced a huge task of verifying the VVPATs. If the SC considers verification of just 25 per cent of the VVPATs, then it would have to check 425000 machines.
Another reason for rejecting the opposition's demand is the lack of skilled officials. The counting of VVPATs requires extensive training. An increase in the number of machines to be verified would require greater manpower.