In a bid to further reinforce the credibility of electronic voting machines, the Election Commission (EC) has decided to mandatorily tally paper trail slips with the results of EVMs in five per cent of polling stations in each assembly seat, for all state and Lok Sabha elections. The counting of paper trail slips, however, will not take place in more than 14 polling stations and less than five polling stations in each assembly seat. The stations will be selected or identified at random. This change in the vote counting process will, by the EC’s estimate, delay the announcement of poll results by three hours. The 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 any dispute regarding the election.
Currently, 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 compulsory counting of paper trail slips, which was approved by the full Commission before Nasim Zaidi retired as the Chief Election Commissioner on Wednesday, is a response to the demand made by political parties at a meeting held by the EC on May 12. The meeting was called in the wake of Opposition parties questioning the infallibility of EVMs after the Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Punjab assembly elections in March this year.