After getting the Supreme Court nod, the Election Commission will soon be seeking about Rs. 2,000 crore from the government for introducing a voter authentication system called Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) before 2014 general elections.
The commission will need about 14 lakh VVPAT machines to introduce the system in all 543 Lok Sabha constituencies in 2014. However, the commission is apprehensive that so many machines can be produced and testing them in such a short duration of time.
Although the commission is looking at making optimal use of VVPAT machines in the 2014 general elections, it will tell the Supreme Court that covering all Parliamentary constituencies will not be possible before 2019 general elections.
According to sources, smaller Parliamentary constituencies across India would be selected for introduction of VVPAT so that voters around the country can "feel" the new system. The commission has already ordered 20,000 machines and more would be sought once the government approves funds for the same.
A price fixation committee has been constituted in the law ministry, the commission's administrative body, to determine the price of the VVPAT system. The initial price of a machine was about Rs. 13,000 but because of fall in value of rupee, the new price is estimated to be around Rs. 18,000 per machine.
One reason for the high cost is that key parts of the system are imported. Another is that only two public sector companies - Bharat Electronic Limited and Electronics Corporation of India Limited - can manufacture the VVPAT system that can be integrated with the electronic voting machines. A commission's technical expert group had certified machines manufactured by these companies.
The system, which allows the voter to see a paper receipt of the vote cast in the electronic voting machines, had been successfully tested in a by-poll in Nagaland. Chief election commissioner VS Sampath had announced that it would be introduced in 10 assembly constituencies in Mizoram and one each in Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.
The new system allows a voter to challenge his or her vote on basis of the paper receipt for the first time. As per a new rule, the booth presiding officer will have to record the dissent of the voter, which would have to be taken into account at time of counting.
As introduction of VVPAT system results in increase in voting time, the number of polling stations have to be increased so that polling can be completed within the stipulated time. The commission estimate that the voter trail system will lead to 20% increase in polling stations.