The general perception that the Lok Sabha polls will be totally free of ballot paper may not be entirely correct despite the fact that the Election Commission (EC) deployed 10.5 lakh election voting machines (EVMs) across the country.
Now sample this: it may sound strange but a ballot paper is required even for an EVM, to be operational. The ballot paper is pasted on the EVM to help the voter identify with the name of the candidate and the party as well as the party symbol.
Then, there are postal ballots for the "service voters". More than 15 lakh of them have already been printed and posted to various places in India and abroad to "service voters" who primarily comprise personnel from the defence services, central police organisations and Indian embassies and missions abroad. The number of postal ballot papers, EC sources added, is likely to increase as some are yet to be despatched.
"For the service voters, who constitute an important constituency, the ballot papers are indispensable. So for this category of voters a ballot paper will always be required no matter how hi-tech the elections become in future," a top EC official remarked.
Ballot papers have also been printed for what is know as the "tender ballot" which are described as "extremely essential'' by the EC to ensure free and fair polls. Tender ballot is an important tool to check bogus voting.
If an individual's vote has been cast by someone else and the person is able to establish his identity as the genuine voter then the election officer has to give him a tender ballot. The person can cast his vote on the tender ballot paper which is then sealed by the election officer. This vote however, is not counted.
On an average 10 to 20 per cent tender ballot papers are sent to every polling stations. Thus for the first phase of polling on Tuesday more than 50,000 tender ballot papers have been sent to nearly 1,88, 975 polling stations.
Interestingly, a ballot paper is also required in a constituency where number of candidates are more than 64 as the EVM cannot register more than 64 candidates.
However, in the current elections this situation has not arisen in any constituency.
Commission officials said that the ballot paper will always remain in circulation for these factors. However, in areas where an EVM becomes faulty, it will be replaced by an EVM and not a ballot paper.