Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) Machines

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  • Context (IE): A plea has been filed in the Madras HC to count 100% of the VVPAT machine printout slips attached to the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).
  • INDIA alliance has demanded that “Instead of the VVPAT slip falling in the box, it should be handed over to the voter who shall then place it in a separate ballot box after verifying his or her choice”.

About VVPATs

  • VVPAT is an independent verification printer attached to EVMs.
  • The use of VVPATs falls under Rule 49A of the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961, which states that every EVM shall have a control unit and a balloting unit.
  • When a vote is cast, a slip is printed on the VVPAT printer containing the serial number, name, and symbol of the candidate who voted.
  • This remains visible to the voter through a transparent window for seven seconds. After that, this printed slip automatically gets cut and falls into a sealed drop box.
  • According to ECI, EVMs and VVPATs are separate entities and are not connected to any network.
  • These were first used in Nagaland’s bye-election for the Noksen Assembly seat in 2013.
  • The 2019 Lok Sabha elections became the first general election to have 100% of EVMs attached to VVPATs.

VVPATs

Significance of VVPAT

  • It allows voters to verify that their votes have been recorded accurately.
  • If there is a need, these printouts can later be counted.
  • VVPAT machines can be accessed by polling officers only.
  • EVMs and VVPATs try to ensure the massive election process is in tune with the latest technological advancements.
  • VVPATs add another layer of transparency and reliability to convince voters about the sanctity of EVMs.
  • Its verification helps to eliminate chances of EVM manipulation.
  • Electoral fraud and rigging can be checked.
  • EVMs and VVPATs also quicken the election process as counting votes on EVMs takes much less time than counting paper ballots.

Challenges

  1. Technical Malfunctions
    • There have been instances of the machines malfunctioning, resulting in inaccurate printing or no printing.
  2. Verification of Paper Trails
    • Another challenge is verifying the paper trails generated by the VVPAT machines.
  3. Voter Confidence
    • The lack of transparency and accountability on the part of the EC has led to questions about the fairness and accuracy of the elections.
    • The SC in Dr. Subramanian Swamy v ECI (2013) held that VVPAT is an “indispensable requirement of free and fair elections”.

EC on VVPAT

  • EC told the SC that verification of 20,600 VVPATs (Five randomly selected polling stations per Assembly seat) had been conducted.
  • Not a single case of transfer of vote meant for candidate ‘A’ to candidate ‘B’ has been detected.
  • Differences in the count, if any, have always been traceable to human errors like non-deletion of mock poll votes from the control unit of the EVM or the VVPAT.
  • EC received 25 complaints out of the 118 crore voters who cast their votes. It said all these complaints were found to be false.
  • The EC said 100% verification was a regressive thought and tantamount to going back to the days of manual voting using ballot system”.
  • Manual counting of all VVPAT slips would take time and introduce the potential for human error.
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