Doubts about the untamperabilty of electronic voting machines have been raised frequently in the past, by political parties and other assorted busybodies. In the case of parties, naturally, when they are at a losing end. In fact, the vocalised expression of doubt reached such a crescendo that the EC had to perforce introduce an additional feature —an attachment of sorts called the VVPAT. This machine records and prints out a voter’s preference—the precise vote cast— which automatically drops in a box. The only lacuna, so to say, lies in the fact that what’s recorded or printed through the VVPAT is not mandatorily used to cross-check the votes cast on the EVMs.
It’s done in selective constituencies and/or on demand if/when a candidate expresses doubt over the counting and the result. There of course has been a fiasco in a recent bypoll where the VVPAT was claimed to have malfunctioned due to the prevailing heat wave. Such stories do little to assuage persistent doubts. To be free and fair, both the electorate and the contestants need to perceive it as so. The EC is therefore under a constitutional obligation to deliver a satisfactory working model.
But the opposition parties—19 are expected to knock on Nirvachan Sadan’s door with a demand that India reverts to the old system of ballot papers—should think twice before instilling such scepticism about what exists. It’s not warranted. Instances of blatant rigging were the norm those days—that can hardly be cited as a foolproof system. In fact, Indian elections attained a global reputation after mechanised polling came in. Transportation of ballot boxes to and from far-flung parts was a tediously long process.
The Opposition should instead insist on better procedure, especially the mandatory crosschecking with the paper trail in all constituencies. It has often been argued that technologically advanced democracies, like US and Japan, do not use EVMs. Germany has reverted to the ballot. But, Indian EVMs are qualitatively superior and had served to make elections smooth. Wisdom lies in improving the EVM, not junking it.