Development in Election System: VVPAT [Cracked & Explained]

Union Cabinet led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved a proposal to buy 16,15,000 Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) Units for use in the General Elections 2019.

Amidst controversy over the alleged tampering of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in the Assembly elections this year, the Union Cabinet led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi today approved a proposal to buy 16,15,000 Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) units for use in the General Elections 2019. Each VVPAT unit would cost around Rs 19,650 and the total cost of procurement would be around Rs 3173.47 crore (excluding taxes and freight as applicable) over a period of two years.


The VVPAT would be sourced from Bharat Electronics Ltd, Bangalore and Electronics Corporation of India Ltd, Hyderabad. The Election Commission would place the order to two manufacturers, depending upon their production capacity so that all the VVPAT units can be procured by September 2018, according to a Cabinet release. The use of VVPAT is expected to bring more transparency to the electoral process.

What are VVPAT machines?

A Voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) unit provides feedback to voters using EVMs for voting.  It is an independent verification printer machine and is attached to electronic voting machines. It allows voters to verify that their votes are cast as intended. It also serves as an additional barrier to changing or destroying votes.

How does VVPAT machines work?

  • VVPAT device functions like a printer attached to the ballot unit and kept inside the voting compartment. When the voter presses the button against the name of the candidate of her/his choice on the EVM unit, the VVPAT unit generates a paper slip, also 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 into a sealed drop box. Thus, the ballot slip neither goes into the hands of the voter nor others get to see it.
  • The Ballot Slip can only be accessed by the polling officers in the rarest of the rare cases.

What is the Election Commission’s stand on the issue?

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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.  With the Opposition insisting on doing away with the EVMs and the controversy refusing to die down, the EC has now thrown open a challenge, inviting computer experts and political leaders to prove that the machines can be hacked, in the presence of the EVM manufacturers. The exercise will be conducted in the first week of May. Meanwhile, Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi has requested the Union Law Ministry for urgent release of funds, given the “prevailing environment,” to facilitate procurement of VVPAT machines for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

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 paper trail in EVMs. In 2013, the SC had asked the Commission to introduce paper trails in EVMs in a phased manner for the 2014 Lok Sabha Elections. “EVMs with VVPAT system ensure the accuracy of the voting system.

With an intent to have fullest transparency in the system and to restore the confidence of the voters, it is necessary to set up EVMs with VVPAT system because vote is nothing but an act of expression which has immense importance in democratic system,” the Bench had said.

Benefit of VVPAT

The use of VVPAT gives the voter an opportunity to challenge her/his vote on the basis of the paper receipt for the first time. As per a new rule, the booth presiding officer has to record the dissent of the vote, which needs to be taken into account at the time of counting.

Was VVPAT needed because EVMs can be manipulated?

NO. The VVPAT system was part of the up gradation of the EVM system.

Background

Events leading to the use of EVM in India

  • October 4, 2010: During a meeting with the EC, political parties suggested the use of VVPAT to provide an additional layer of transparency to the satisfaction of voters.
  • July 2011: On the recommendation of a Technical Experts Committee, a field trial was conducted in Thiruvananthapuram, Delhi, Jaisalmer, Cherapunjee and Leh in the presence and participation of all stakeholders including general voters, national and state political parties, civil society organisations, and media.
  • February 19, 2013: The Technical Expert Committee approved the final design of the VVPAT units. This was preceded by a second field trial of prototype VVPAT system in Delhi, Thiruvananthapuram, Leh, Jaisalmer and Cherapunjee in July-August, 2012.
  • August 14, 2013: Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 was amended to facilitate the introduction of VVPAT units. Later, 20,300 VVPAT units were purchased by the ECI.

2015: Order for 67,000 additional units was placed, out of them 33,500 units have been supplied by the manufacturers.

  • September 2013: For the first time, VVPAT with EVMs was used for the Noksen Assembly seat in Tuensang district of Nagaland.
  • October 2013: In the case of Subramanian Swamy vs Election Commission of India (ECI), the Supreme Court held that VVPAT is “indispensable for free and fair elections” and directed the ECI to equip EVMs with VVPAT systems. The apex court directed the EC to introduce EVMs in a phased manner for the next General Elections in 2014, saying it would ensure free and fair polls. SC also directed the Centre to provide financial assistance for introducing VVPAT system.

In accordance with the SC order, the EC ordered VVPAT systems to be used in the New Delhi assembly of the Delhi assembly elections. The pilot project was launched across 186 polling stations, catering to 1,18,596 registered voters.

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