In an effort to ensure more transparent electronic voting, the Election Commission is planning to introduce EVM and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT), whose first field trials would be conducted in simulated elections at selected polling stations.
In VVPAT system, when voter presses button for the candidate of his choice in the Electronic Voting Machine, a paper ballot containing the serial number, name of the candidate and poll symbol will be printed, and the voter can verify it.
Introducing the new system to the media at the EC headquarters in New Delhi, Deputy Election Commissioner Alok Shukla said “extensive laboratory tests” have been conducted on the prototype of the VVPAT system by the Bharat Electronic Limited (BEL) and Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL).He said the Commission has accepted suggestions by the technical expert committee on EVMs headed by P V Indiresan, former director of Madras IIT, and a field trial of the system would be conducted in realistic condition.
The Commission said two types of VVPAT system will be tested in field trial to be done in 35 polling stations where simulated elections will be held.
“In one system, the printer is completely sealed and inaccessible to the voter. It has a transparent window on the front side. The printed ballot remains in front of the transparent window for 5 seconds for the voter to verify it. Thereafter, it gets cut and automatically falls into a sealed box,” the Commission said.
“In the other system, the printer is kept open. The printed ballot will get cut and fall in a tray in front of the printer. The voter will pick it up from the tray, verify it, fold it and bring it out of voting compartment and drop the same in a sealed box kept for this purpose in front of the Presiding Officer before leaving the polling station,” it said.
“In each EVM, there will be two printers in case one printer fails for some reasons,” Shukla said.
He said simulated elections will be held in the districts of Leh (Jammu and Kashmir), Thirvananthapuram (Kerala), East Khasi Hills (Meghalaya), East Delhi District (Delhi) and Jaisalmer (Rajasthan) on 24th July.
“In these five locations, testing will be done at 35 polling stations and it will be a day long simulated polling exercise,” Shukla said.
“After this analysis, future actions, future decisions can then be taken by the Election Commission,” the official said.
He said voters of the area will be requested to come and participate in the simulated polling.
“Since this is a simulated election, the Commission has decided that other people, who may not be voters in that area yet they want to actually go and see how the system works will also be allowed to go and cast their votes,” he said.
The EC has also written to all the national and state-level recognised political parties and asked Chief Electoral Officers to write to other political parties to participate in the exercise.
“They can come, they can have a look and they can participate, they can share, and they can give their suggestions,” Shukla said.
The Commission said it had a meeting of all political parties last October where several parties recommended that the EC “may consider of introducing Voter Verifiable Paper Trail” for further transparency in the system.
The Commission then referred the matter to Technical Expert Committee on EVM for examining the matter and making a recommendation in this regard.
The EC has made “elaborate arrangements” for taking feedback from the voters and the officers involved in the polling process, he said, adding an analysis will be done after the exercise.
The Commission said the use of EVM in the country is “very inexpensive” and the cost is less than Rs 10,000 per EVM.
“If we have a plan to introduce VVPAT system in the voting, obviously it needs some additional expense,” Shukla said reacting to a question.
Currently, EVM-VVPAT system is being used in very few places like Venezuela and some states in the USA.