How can the Process of Voting be Made More Robust?

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How can the Process of Voting be Made More Robust? Blog Image

What’s in today’s article?

  • Why in News?
  • What is the History of the Voting Process?
  • What are the International Voting Practices?
  • What are the Features of EVMs?
  • Way Forward to Make Process of Voting More Robust

Why in News?

The Supreme Court has decided to hear petitions seeking 100% cross-verification of the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips with the vote count as per Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).

What is the History of the Voting Process?

  • First two general elections of 1952 and 1957: A separate box was placed for each candidate with their election symbol. Voters had to drop a blank ballot paper into the box of the candidate whom they wanted to vote for.
  • Third general elections: From the third election, the ballot paper with names of candidates and their symbols was introduced with voters putting a stamp on the candidate of their choice.
  • Introduction of the EVM: It was introduced on a trial basis in 1982 in the Assembly constituency of Paravur in Kerala.
    • They were deployed in all booths during the Assembly elections of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Puducherry and West Bengal in 2001.
    • In the 2004 general elections to the Lok Sabha, EVMs were used in all 543 constituencies.
  • Introduction of the VVPAT: In Subramanian Swamy versus Election Commission of India (2013), the SC ruled that a paper trail is an indispensable requirement for free and fair elections.
    • The 2019 general elections had EVMs backed with 100% VVPAT in all constituencies.

What are the International Voting Practices?

  • Many western democracies continue to have paper ballots for their elections.
  • Countries like England, France, The Netherlands and the U.S. have discontinued the use of EVMs, for national or federal elections, after trials in the last two decades.
  • In Germany, the Supreme Court of the country declared the use of EVMs in elections as unconstitutional in 2009.
  • Some countries like Brazil, however, use EVMs for their elections. Among India’s neighbours,
    • Pakistan does not use EVMs.
    • Bangladesh experimented in a few constituencies in 2018 but reverted to paper ballots for the general elections in 2024.

What are the Features of EVMs?

  • Benefits:
    • The EVM has virtually eradicated booth capturing by limiting the rate of vote casting to four votes a minute and thus significantly increasing the time required for stuffing false votes.
    • Invalid votes that were a bane of paper ballots and also a bone of contention during the counting process have been eliminated through EVMs.
    • Considering the size of the electorate in India which is close to one billion, the use of EVMs is eco-friendly as it reduces the consumption of paper.
    • It provides administrative convenience for the polling officers on the day of the poll and has made the counting process faster and error-free.
  • Mechanisms to uphold the integrity of EVM and VVPAT process: These include -
    • Random allocation of EVMs to booths before polls;
    • Conduct of a mock poll to display the correctness of EVMs and VVPAT before commencement of the actual poll; and
    • The serial number of EVMs along with total votes polled was shared with agents of candidates to verify the same at the time of counting of votes.
  • Doubts raised about the functioning of EVMs:
    • The most repeated allegation is that EVMs are susceptible to hacking as it is an electronic device.
    • The sample size for matching of the EVM count with VVPAT slips at present is 5 per assembly constituency/segment. This is not based on any scientific criteria and may fail to detect defective EVMs during counting.
    • The present process also allows for booth-wise polling behaviour to be identified by various parties that can result in profiling and intimidation.
  • Clarification given by the ECI: EVMs are standalone devices like a calculator with no connectivity to any external device and hence free from any kind of external hack.

Way Forward to Make Process of Voting More Robust

  • The sample for matching of EVM count and VVPAT slips should be decided in a scientific manner. 100% match of EVM count with VVPAT slips would be unscientific and cumbersome.
    • In case of even a single error, the VVPAT slips should be counted fully for the concerned region and form the basis for results.
    • This would instil a statistically significant confidence in the counting process.

In order to provide a degree of cover for voters at the booth level, ‘totaliser’ machines can be introduced that would aggregate votes in 15-20 EVMs before revealing the candidate-wise count.

Q.1. What is a VVPAT and how does it work in an election?

VVPAT stands for Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail. It is a ballotless system that prints a paper slip with the name of the candidate, his/her serial number and the symbol of the party he/she is standing for.

Q.2. What is a totaliser machine?

A totaliser is a mechanism which allows votes from 14 booths to be counted together so that voters are saved from pre-poll intimidation and post-poll harassment. Currently, the votes cast via EVMs are counted on an individual booth basis.

Source: Reforms needed in the voting process | Explained