One polling station in each HP, Gujarat seat to tally paper trail and EVM votes
The election commission will count the slips generated by paper trail machines and tally them with votes registered by electronic voting machines (EVMs) in at least one polling station per assembly constituency during the Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat polls.
This is being done as part of ongoing efforts by the poll panel to ensure that the assembly elections in the two states are conducted amid complete transparency, and allegations of EVMs being doctored to benefit a certain political party are silenced for good.
In both Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, the election commission has decided to use paper trail machines – or VVPATs – that display the result on a confirmation screen for seven seconds after the vote is cast. A slip generated in the process is collected in a box attached to the machine, and can be used to tally the results later.
VVPATs will be used in all the 68 assembly constituencies of Himachal Pradesh, which go to the polls in November, and 182 assembly constituencies of Gujarat, which will possibly vote a month later.
Earlier, in keeping with feedback obtained from various political parties, the poll panel had announced that VVPAT slips would be tallied with EVM results in at least 5% of the polling stations at each assembly seat – with no more than 14 being picked at random.
The poll panel also has a provision for acting on the complaints of people who may allege mismatch between the political entities they vote for and the results that appear on the VVPAT display screen. If a voter finds any such discrepancy, he/she can fill a form and submit it to the returning officer. The complaint would then be verified through a test vote.
If the complaint is found to be false, the election commission will be authorised to initiate action against the voter concerned. The punishment – monetary or otherwise – is yet to be specified.
It would be mandatory for the presiding official to inform the voter that he/she risks prosecution if the complaint of discrepancy is found to be false. Once the test is carried out and the complaint is found to be erroneous, the extra vote will be deducted from the EVM’s final tally.
Sources said the provision of penal action has been introduced to ensure that the electoral proceedings are not delayed on account of false complaints. The decision to limit the tallying of votes to one constituency was also taken with a similar concern in mind.
As VVPATs were earlier used only in the Goa assembly polls, all electoral officials are being trained to operate them.
Visually challenged voters who are unable to read the results on the confirmation screen will be allowed to take a companion into the voting booth. The person will have to be over 18 years, and won’t be allowed to aid more than one voter a day.