The Election Commission of India (EC) is in the process of doing away with the tradition of counting votes for each booth. It is testing technology to declare results for each assembly constituency instead of individual wards and streets.
In the opinion of the EC officials at the central as well as the state level, if the political parties know the voting pattern for each village and ward, they can intimidate and influence voters or, later, discriminate against the pockets that voted for the opponents.
“For maintaining the secrecy of ballot, we should amend the traditional system of counting,” said a senior official in the EC, adding that the change would require both time and political will, since the Representation of the People Act would have to be amended.
“Parties may take time to agree but they have to accept in the public interest,” he added. In a communication to chief election commissioner VS Sampath, a lawyer from Jalandhar has raised the issue that after booth-wise count is made public, the parties ruling the Centre or the state deny basic facilities to the voters who didn’t elect them.
“It is shocking and disturbing,” wrote the advocate. Punjab chief electoral officer (CEO) VK Singh confirmed receiving many similar petitions from voters, from the rural areas especially. “We forwarded the requests to the ECI,” he said.
Sources in the EC said technology was being tested for taking a combined count of all the electronic voting machines (EVMs). The current practice is to give each machine a number matching with the polling booth identity.
“The way results are announced maintains no secrecy. I am for amending this system,” said Sumail Singh Sidhu, convener of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Punjab.
“Once leaders know the booth-level voting pattern, they do micro mapping of the households and deal with voters accordingly,” said Sidhu.