C Times, 6th July 2017, Agartala
The Election Commission (EC) has decided to mandatorily tally paper trail slips with the results of EVMs in five percent of polling stations in each assembly seat, for all seat and Lok Sabha elections. The counting of paper trail slips will not take place in more than 14 polling stations and less than five polling stations in each assembly seat.
This change in the vote counting process will, by the EC’s estimate, delay the announcement of poll results by three hours. The Election Commission has already decided to link all EVMs with Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines in the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh Assembly Elections, scheduled to be held towards the end of this year.
VVPAT machines produce a printout of the vote cast using an EVM. The printed ballot slip is deposited in a box and can be used to resolve and dispute regarding the election.
Recently, there is no compulsory tallying of VVPAT slips with the EVM results. It is only done when the results of a polling station are disputed by a candidate or his/her agent on the counting day.
The decision of the returning officer, on whether to accept the candidate’s request to also count VVPAT slips, is final. The decision on a compulsory counting of paper trail slips, which was approved by the full Commission before Nasim Zaidi retired as the Chief Election Commissioner, is a response to the demand made by political parties at a meeting held by the Election Commission on 12 May.
The meeting was called in the wake of Opposition parties questioning the infallibility of EVMs after the Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Uttarakhand Assembly elections in March this year.
At the meeting, AAP leader and Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, for instance, urged the Commission to mandatorily count paper trail slips in 25% of the polling booths in every constituency on the day of the results to instil more faith in the voting process.
According to sources, the poll panel’s final decision on the definite percentage of polling stations whose VVPAT slips should be counted was influenced by the delay it would cause in an announcement of the election results. The EC is expected to soon issue instructions on the change in the counting process to all Chief Electoral Officers.