Several parties raise concern over EVMs at all-party meet on 2019 polls

SansadTV Bureau
Election Commission File Photo, PTI

Election Commission File Photo, PTI

The Election Commission has said that it would provide “satisfactory solution” to the concerns raised by political parties on the infallibility of electronic voting machines (EVMs), after some of them pitched for returning to the ballot paper system at an all-party meeting.

Talking to reporters after the meeting, Chief Election Commissioner O P Rawat said, “We will definitely look into all the suggestions given by them (political parties) and there will be a satisfactory solution to them.”

The Election Commission convened the meeting ahead of elections to several state assemblies later this year and the Lok Sabha polls scheduled for early next year.

It is customary for the poll panel to listen to political parties ahead of elections.

In the meeting, several opposition parties raised the issues of EVM tampering and technical glitches in the voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) system.

Representatives of the Congress, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and the Trinamool Congress were among those who raised these issues and many of them also suggested going back to the ballot paper system, representatives of parties and EC officials present in the meeting said.

Though EVM tampering and VVPAT glitches were not on the agenda, parties raised these issues.

Some parties also suggested that the number of constituencies where results of EVM and paper audit trail device are matched be increased to enhance the confidence of voters and parties in the reliability of the voting mode.

“Nothing final has been decided yet, but one way to allay fears is to increase the number of constituencies where EVM and paper trail machine results are matched,” a senior EC functionary said after the meeting.

Responding to repeated questions on EVMs, Rawat said the EC takes a comprehensive view.

“Some of the parties said going back to ballot is really bad as it will bring back booth capturing…we don’t want (that). At the same time, some parties said there are problems with EVMs, there are issues with VVPAT slip count so why not EC takes a call on this,” Rawat said.

Asked about the stand of the EC on EVMs and whether it remains the “same” as it was in the past, the Chief Election Commissioner dubbed it as a “hypothetical question”.

In June last year, when the EC had invited parties to prove that the EVMs can be hacked, only two parties accepted the challenge but they too opted out of the event.

As many as 13 parties had last year questioned the reliability of the EVMs.

Then Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi had maintained that the EVMs used by the EC were “non-tamperable” and with 100 per cent use of paper trail machines in all future elections the issue of tamperability of the machines “stands closed”.

The “failure rate” of EVMs in most elections has been 0.7 per cent.

EVMs were first used in election in India in May, 1982 in a Kerala byoll.

But since there was no law prescribing its use, the Supreme Court struck down the election.

The Representation of the People Act was amended in 1989 to allow use of EVMs. But a general consensus on its use was evolved only in 1998.

Over 11 per cent of the 10,300 VVPAT machines across 10 states had developed faults and had to be replaced during the bypolls on May 28 this year.

This prompted the EC to make ingenious changes to ensure that the failure rate goes down.

Voter-verifiable paper audit trail machines dispense a slip with the symbol of the party for which a person has voted for. The slip appears on a small window for seven seconds and then drops in a box. But the voter cannot take it home.

VVPATs are used in all polling stations. But as of now, results of EVMs and VVPATs are matched in one polling station per constituency.