New Delhi: Electronic voting machines (EMs) that will leave a paper trail of the candidate for which a vote is cast will be used in all future elections in India, chief election commissioner Nasim Zaidi said on Friday.
The assurance by Nasim Zaidi followed allegations by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Congress and other political parties following recent elections that the voting machines are vulnerable to tampering.
After an all-party meeting that lasted seven hours, Zaidi said machines with a voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) will be used in elections henceforth, seeking to put the controversy at rest.
Zaidi stressed that the election commission is an impartial institution.
“You should be convinced that EC has no favourites...we maintain equidistance from all parties and groups," PTI quoted him as saying at the meeting.
Machines with VVPAT dispense a paper slip with the name, serial number and symbol of the candidate an elector voted for. Simply put, the paper trail allows a voter to confirm that the vote had been cast in favour of the candidate of his or her choice.
The move is significant not only because it should dispel the misgivings of opposition parties, but also because it is a step towards electoral reform.
“The commission has also taken into account that VVPAT slips of EVMs upto a definite percentage, which will be determined by the commission, will also be subjected to counting and the EC will evolve an appropriate framework in this regard," Zaidi told reporters.
A majority of the political parties agreed to EVMs with a VVPAT; last month, 16 opposition parties had urged the EC to revert to a paper ballot system, citing what they called a “trust deficit."
The meeting, which was attended by all the seven national and 35 state political parties, was dominated by the controversy over alleged tampering of EVMs.
The EC has said that it will soon organise an event that will give an opportunity to political parties to demonstrate how EVMs used in recent assembly polls were tampered with. A date for such an event is yet to be announced.
Delhi’s deputy chief minister and senior AAP leader Manish Sisodia claimed that the EC did not agree to a ‘hackathon’ which his party suggested should be open to technical experts.
“Transparency, reliability and authenticity are the three key issues. Our demand is that people should get satisfied by the polling process which will be when they know their vote has gone to the right candidate," Vivek Tankha, Congress’ legal cell chairman, who attended the meeting, said.
Also on the table on Friday was making bribery in elections a cognizable offence -- an issue on which there was no immediate consensus -- but several political parties highlighted the need for more safeguards. Almost all political parties demanded more transparency in political funding.