Syllabus :GS 2/Polity and Governance
- A petition from the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) has sought 100% counting of Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips.
What are VVPAT machines?
- Background : The idea of an additional layer of transparency for the satisfaction of voters in the form of a ‘voter verifiable paper trail’ was suggested by the political parties in a meeting taken by the ECI on 4th October, 2010.
- In 2013, the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961, were amended to use VVPATs along with EVMs.
- Meaning : It is an independent system attached with the Electronic Voting Machines that allows the voters to verify that their votes are cast as intended.
How do VVPAT machines work?
- When a voter presses a button in the EVM, a paper slip is printed through the VVPAT.
- The slip contains the poll symbol and name of the candidate. It allows the voter to verify his/her choice.
- After being visible to the voter from a glass case in the VVPAT for seven seconds, the ballot slip will be cut and dropped into the drop box in the VVPAT machine and a beep will be heard.
Instances of Usage :
- VVPATs with EVMs were used for the first time in a bye-election from 51-Noksen (ST) assembly constituency of Nagaland in 2013 after which the EC decided to introduce VVPATs in a phased manner.
- From June 2017, 100% of VVPATs began to be used in polls, and the 2019 Lok Sabha elections became the first general election to have 100% of EVMs being attached to VVPATs.
Supreme Court’s judgement
- The Supreme Court’s 2013 judgement in Subramanian Swamy vs Election Commission of India held that the “paper trail is an indispensable requirement of free and fair elections.
- The confidence of the voters in the EVMs can be achieved only with the introduction of the “paper trail”.
Percentage of VVPAT slips are counted as of now
- As of now, the ECI mandates the counting of all VVPAT slips in five randomly selected polling stations per Assembly constituency or segment.
- The Election Commission (EC) told the Supreme Court that if it were to count 100% of the slips in every election, then the country would go back to the time of manual polling.
Issues and petition
- The election watchdog group ADR filed a writ petition in March 2023 and said that while the requirement of the voter verifying that the vote is recorded as cast is “somewhat met” by the slip being displayed for seven seconds, there is no procedure for the voter to ensure that the vote is “counted as recorded”.
- The ADR petition asked the court to declare that it was every voter’s fundamental right to verify the vote has been “recorded as cast”, that is 100% counting of VVPAT slips.
What has the EC said?
- In Lok Sabha and Assembly elections so far, the EC said, 38,156 VVPATs have been checked randomly.
- Not a single case of transfer of vote meant for candidate ‘A’ to candidate ‘B’ has been detected.
- The EC said the VVPAT was “essentially an audit trail” so the voter could verify the vote at that instant, but following Supreme Court orders, the slips were being tallied on a “statistically robust basis”.
- It said manual counting of all VVPAT slips would take time and introduce the potential of human error.