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General Elections 2019: Is VVPAT necessary and how does it function?

An add-on which is connected to the Electronic Voting Machine is the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail device (VVPAT). This allows voters to verify if their vote has gone to the intended candidate by leaving a paper trail of the vote cast. Once the voter casts his or her mandate by pressing a button related on the ballot machine, the VVPAT connected to it prints a slip containing the poll symbol and the name of the candidate. For the voter, the slip is visible from a glass case in the VVPAT for a total of seven seconds and they can verify if the mandate that s/he has cast has been registered correctly. After that time, it is cut and dropped into the drop box in the VVPAT and a beep is heard, indicating the vote has been recorded.

It is being planned by the Election Commission of India to use VVPAT machines in the 2019 Lok Sabha election in all the booths. Some basic history about this machine is in the following:

  • In the year 2013 in Nagaland, for the first time, VVPATs were used in the bye-election to the Noksen Assembly constituency.
  • Later in 2014 General Elections, they were deployed in eight Lok Sabha constituencies.
  • The failure rates of VVPAT were high early, with hardware issues occurring during transport and due to exposure to extreme weather conditions. The Election Commission ordered to repair these issues.
  • From mid-2017 onwards the VVPAT has been a universal presence in all EVMs in the Assembly elections.

It makes possible for the returning officer to corroborate machine readings of the vote with the presence of the slips that correspond to voter choice on the EVM that helps retain a paper trail for the votes. These machines can be accessed only by polling officers. For every Assembly, constituency slips in one randomly chosen VVPAT machine are counted manually to tally with the EVM generated a count. It has been recorded 100% accuracy of VVPAT wherever it has been deployed in Assembly elections as stated by the EC.

The use of EVMs allowed for the elimination of invalid votes, quicker & easier tallying of votes, as the voting process was made easier — registering the vote by pressing a button. In earlier days when ballot papers were used there used to take place mass rigging. With the usage of EVMs that became difficult to commit malpractices as they allowed for only five votes to be registered every minute. With the introduction of the VVPAT that added another layer of accountability to the electoral process.

The former bureaucrat Ashok Vardhan Shetty suggests that VVPAT counting process can be adjusted to factor in the size of the State, the population of the constituency and turn out to account for a good confidence level and a low margin of error. The Supreme Court had even asked the EC to increase the VVPAT count to be more than the current number.

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