The Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) could be a new addition to the Electronic Voting Machines (EVM), this election season. The VVPAT system involves a printer attached to the EVM. After the ballot is recorded electronically in the EVM, the printer displays a slip with the candidate name and party symbol behind a glass screen for visual verification by the voter. If the paper correctly states the voter’s choices, the voter can finalize the vote. The printed ballot is further safely stored. If need be, a manual count could be performed on the paper ballots. The VVPAT system gives a reliable paper trail to prevent any malfunctioning of the EVM’s. Usually, any vote fraud is difficult to detect in the EVM’s as the votes are recorded electronically within the machine. In instances of failure of EVM’s also, a permanent paper trail by VVPAT system will prevent any loss of votes. Therefore, paper audit trail systems increase “transparency, auditability and recovery.”
The decision to use paper audit trail systems came early this October, when the Hon’ble Supreme Court directed the Election Commission of India to introduce them in the 2014 General Elections. In accordance with the order, the Union Law Ministry has amended the Conduct of Election Rules of 1961, to allow the usage of EVM’s fitted with VVPAT systems. The amendment has a section that empowers the voters to challenge the EVM operation on the grounds of difference between the electronically cast vote and the printed slip. In case of discrepancy in the cast vote and the printed version, the same can be brought to the notice of the Presiding Officer at the poll booth and the EVM can be checked for any tampering.
Earlier this year in September, the VVPAT system was experimented in Noksen constituency during Nagaland assembly by polls. They were again tested on a pilot basis in 10 constituencies of Aizwal and in New Delhi constituency during Assembly elections. Although there was nearly 10% failure of the equipment, the EC says that a positive voter experience has been observed. If the reliability of VVPAT’s is increased, they could be rolled out everywhere by the General Elections. The VVPAT’s are currently being manufactured indigenously by ECIL, Hyderabad. A total of 13 lakh VVPAT’s at a budget of Rs.1692 crores are estimated to be required for General Elections.
About the Author
Raghavi is a 3rd year B.Tech student at IIT Madras. She is a technology and policy enthusiast. She has previously written for the IITM news body, The Fifth Estate and worked for many other student organizations. Currently, she is working as Associate, Programs for Alexis Centre for Public Policy and International Relations.