Lack of awareness about voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines being introduced in 33 assembly segments has the electorate in a fix ahead of the Punjab polls.
Fearing the new system — which the election commission (EC) says will bring transparency and build voter confidence — will allow the authorities find for whom they voted, a section of the electorate is ironically feeling threatened, representatives of some political parties told the EC on Friday.
VVPAT machines, which allow people to verify if they voted correctly, have been introduced in 22 district headquarters besides 11 high-profile constituencies, including Lambi, Jalalabad, Majitha, Bholath, Bathinda Urban and Rural, Atam Nagar, Ludhiana North, Rampura Phul, Qadian and Chabbewal. These will be also used in two assembly segments that are part of the Amritsar constituency during the Lok Sabha bypoll the same day.
On all seats, top leaders of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Congress are in the fray. A total of 6,500 machines will be installed and 3,000 will be kept in reserve.
“We have received information that some senior leaders of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) are threatening voters by claiming they would get to know about the voting pattern in the polling station using VVPAT machines,” alleged Jasteg Singh of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
Rachpal Singh, 45, a voter from Bhagta Bhaika village in Rampura Phul constituency, said some politicians were spreading rumours that the new system will generate a receipt showing who has voted for whom. “We need a way out,” he said.
Capt Sandeep Sandhu of the Congress said the issue is of concern as voters, particularly in the lower strata, are falling prey to such rumours. “I suggest the EC to create awareness among such voters,” he said.
Additional chief electoral officer (CEO), Punjab, MS Narang said: “The machines are there for the benefit of voters. They will be able to check if they have pressed against the right candidate on the electronic voting machine (EVM). The receipt of the vote will pop out for only 10 seconds for the voter and it will remain in the machine. The records will not be shown to anyone.”
Narang said parties could not befool voters as the EC has already run campaigns about the new initiative and will publish public notices to explain the functioning of the machines ahead of the elections.
Air ambulance for poll staff
The EC has hired an air ambulance to evacuate polling staff in case of any health exigency. From February 2 to 4, the ambulance will be stationed in Delhi and will be called in if the polling staff has to be shifted to a super-specialty hospital out of Punjab.
Clearing the doubts
Voter-verifiable paper audit trail has been introduced to bring transparency and build voter confidence
Voters will be able to verify if they pressed against the right candidate
These machines will be used in 22 district headquarters besides 11 high-profile constituencies
Some people fear the new system will reveal for whom they voted. Some politicians are allegedly spreading these rumours to threaten the electorate
Poll officials have clarified the receipt will pop out for only 10 seconds and remain in the machine, and records will be shared with no one