Is the EVM controversy over in Gujarat?
New Delhi/Ahmedabad: Electronic voting machines (EVMs) came under fire in the run-up to the Gujarat elections, as opposition parties, particularly Congress, raised doubts over its authenticity.
While the debate over the authenticity of EVMs has been on for nearly a year now, the Election Commission (EC) carried out counting of VVPAT (voter verifiable paper audit trail) paper slips in some polling stations in the just-concluded Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh assembly elections for greater transparency. VVPAT slips were mandatorily counted at one randomly selected polling station in each assembly constituency of the two states. Counting of VVPAT slips took place for the first time in India.
A senior official from the office of Gujarat’s Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) said “there was no mismatch in the random vote count” on EVMs and paper trail slips carried out by the EC across 182 polling stations in Gujarat on Monday.
The VVPAT machine dispenses a paper slip with details of the party for whom the voter casts a vote. The slip has the name, serial number and symbol of the candidate and is displayed through a screened window for seven seconds. The slip then gets cut and is dropped in a sealed box.
The EC conducted random vote counts on EVMs and VVPAT slips at one polling station in each of the 182 assembly constituencies of Gujarat on Monday. The polling stations were selected through a random a draw of lots where either candidates or their polling agents were also present.
The counting of audit trail is aimed at bringing in greater transparency in the poll process amid recent allegations by the opposition over the authenticity of the voting machines. While the Congress raised the issue during its poll campaign, Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) leader Hardik Patel raised concerns about EVM machines being manipulated and tampered in Gujarat elections.
Congress leader Arjun Modhwadhia had on 9 December alleged that EVMs could be connected to a Bluetooth device, raising concerns that they could be hacked.
Days before counting, the Supreme Court on 15 December had refused to entertain a plea of Gujarat Congress which sought counting of at least 20% of audit trails in each constituency. The apex court ruled that it cannot interfere unless the EC’s decision to restrict the EVM-VVPAT paper trail to one booth per constituency is proved “arbitrary”, “illegal” or “malafide”, according to a news report by Press Trust of India.
The EC on its part has regularly issued advisories reasserting the effectiveness and authenticity of EVMs and VVPATs. Chief Election Commissioner A.K. Joti, according to news agency ANI, said on Monday that “no electronic voting machines (EVMs) had been tampered with as far as the Gujarat assembly polls were concerned.”
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