EC to use EVMs with paper trail in future polls, Kejriwal ‘sad’ about hackathon
Several opposition parties, including the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP and the Mayawati-led BSP, have alleged that EVMs were tampered with in the February-March assembly elections in 5 states and the just-concluded civic polls in Delhi.
All future elections will be held with voting machines that have a paper trail attached, the Election Commission said on Friday amid a storm of allegations that poll results were manipulated by faulty devices.
The Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) system records the candidate and symbol a person voted for but the voter cannot take the receipt home.
The announcement was made by chief election commissioner Nasim Zaidi after a meeting with representatives of seven national and 35 recognised state parties here.
Zaidi said the commission will consider the demand from political parties to allow counting of some percentage of VVPAT slips in addition to the usual counting process to instill confidence among voters and political parties. He, however, reiterated that EVMs cannot be manipulated and the system is fool-proof.
He also said the poll panel will soon announce the date for an “open challenge”, where party representatives will be given EVMs – used in recent polls -- to prove allegations they can be tampered with.
The poll panel’s announcement came days after the Aam Aadmi Party used a dummy EVM to purportedly show how the machine could be manipulated, though a majority of the political parties on Friday chose to support the use of EVMs provided they are accompanied by paper trail machines.
BJP ally Shiva Sena, however was among the few that stuck to the demand to revert to paper ballots.
Some of the parties such as the JDU and CPI reversed their demand to switch to paper ballots. Led by the BSP and the AAP, these parties had expressed doubts about the safeguards of an EVM and were among the 13 that had petitioned the poll panel to discontinue EVM use.
But on Friday, Sanjay Jha of the JDU told reporters the party does not want reversal to paper ballots, as they had witnessed booth capturing in the past.
The election commission’s presentation on the efficacy of the EVMs failed to cut ice with the AAP, BSP, PMK and the TMC as they pressed with the demand for the paper ballot system.
Another demand that was repeated by several parties was to increase the display time on VVPAT machines from the current seven seconds.
State funding of elections was another demand raised by several parties, though there was no consensus on the EC’s suggestion to disqualify candidates after framing of charges for the offence of bribery in elections and making bribery a cognizable offence.
While the BJP said, it would wait for the government to come up with a definition of what comprises bribe; the Congress, the RLD sought more time.
Congress’s Vivek Tankha said authenticity, transparency and reliability should be the hallmarks of the electioneering system.
After the meeting, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said the poll panel went back on its promise.
“Sad that EC has backed out of hackathon,” Kejriwal tweeted.