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checks and balance on EVM


What in news about checks and balance on EVM 

  • In a significant and welcome change from their earlier demand for a return to paper ballots, representatives of a large section of the mainstream Opposition parties met the Election Commission (ECI) to demand changes to the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail counting process during the general elections.

What are VVPAT machines?

  • The Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail is a method that provides feedback to voters.
  • It is an independent verification printer machine and is attached to electronic voting machines.
  • It allows voters to verify if their vote has gone to the intended candidate.
  • VVPATs were approved by the EC in 2013; used in the Nagaland by-election the same year.
  • Goa and Gujarat were the first and second states respectively to use EVMs with VVPAT machines their 2017 Assembly Elections.

 How do VVPAT machines work?

  1. When a voter presses a button in the EVM, a paper slip is printed through the VVPAT.
  2. The slip contains the poll symbol and name of the candidate.
  3. 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.
  4. VVPAT machines can be accessed by polling officers only.
  5. VVPAT is a machine which dispenses a slip with the symbol of the party for which a person has voted for. The slip dropped in a box but the voter cannot take it home.

 Advantages in VVPATs in checks and balance on EVM

  1. Enables to verify vote: Instant feedback to voter that vote polled has been allocated to the intended candidate.
  2. Enables authorities to count the votes manually if there is a dispute in the electronically polled votes.
  3. Operates under a Direct Recording Election system (DRE) which detects fraud and existent malfunctions.
  4. Will ensure greater transparency in voting process.
  5. Gives both the voters and political parties an assurance.

Challenges of  VVPAT in checks and balance on EVM : 

1.Whether counting one booth per constituency is statistically significant sample?

  • Opposition demand : The Opposition’s demand for a count of 50% of the VVPAT slips, as opposed to the current system of counting VVPAT slips in one randomly selected booth of each constituency, is aimed at ensuring that EVMs have not been tampered with.
  • ECI : There has been no evidence of EVM-tampering as claimed by some parties.Moreover, administrative and technical safeguards instituted by the ECI and EVM manufacturers have held steady since the introduction of the EVM.
  • While the demand to count half of all the slips is an over-reaction, as a scientifically and randomly chosen sample of booths is a reasonable enough verification for the process.
  • However, there remains the question whether counting one booth per constituency is a statistically significant sample to rule out errors.
  • A more robust sampling technique that factors in the average size of the electoratein any constituency for each State and voter turnout, involving the counting of more than a single booth in some States, may be a better method.
  • Moreover, ECI’s response that it is waiting for a report on this from the Indian Statistical Institute should be encouraging.
  • Despite this, the ECI had fast-tracked the implementation of the VVPAT, an adjunct to the EVM that allows for a paper trail for voting and later verification of the electronically registered mandate in the ballot unit of the EVM.

 Issues due to Machine glitches in VVPAT model :

  • During the parliamentary by-elections in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, and Assembly elections in Karnataka in 2018, VVPAT glitches resulted in machine replacement rates rising to 20% and 4%, respectively.
  • Glitches in the VVPAT machines were largely due to spooling issues in the print unit, which was sensitive to extreme weather.
  • Solution:
  • Some hardware-related changes were introduced, which improved its functioning in the recent elections in five States
  • Machine replacement rates due to VVPAT failures came down to 1.89% for Chhattisgarh.
  • Deployment of improved machines should help curb glitches in the Lok Sabha elections.

Way Forward in checks and balance on EVM :

  • Seeking a count of 50% of VVPAT slips seems to be way too much.
  • The focus should be on ending Electronic Voting Machine glitches.

Prelims facts in  checks and balance on EVM : 

About ECI:

  • For the conduct of free and fair elections, an independent Election Commission has been provided for inArticle 324.
  • In India, the Election Commission consists of three members
  • These all are appointed by the Presidentfor a term which is fixed by the President.
  • However, conditions of service and tenure of office of the chief election commissioner and other election commissioner are determined by an act of parliament titled The Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Conditions of Service) Act, 1991.
  • This act has fixed the following:
    • The chief election commissioner or an election commissioner shall hold office for a term of 6 yearsor age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.
    • The chief election commissioner and other commissioners are paid a salary equal to the salary of a judge of the Supreme Court.
    • On retirement, they are entitled to a pension payable to a judge of the Supreme Court.
    • All business of the election commission shall, as far as possible, be transacted unanimously.
    • If the chief election commissioner and other election commissioners differ in opinion on any matter, such matter shall be decided according to the opinion of the majority.

Electronic Voting Machine

  • The EVMs were devised and designed by Election Commission of India in collaboration with two Public Sector undertakings viz., Bharat Electronics Limited, Bangalore and Electronics Corporation of India Limited, Hyderabad. The EVMs are now manufactured by the above two undertakings.
  • An Electronic Voting Machine consists of two Units – a Control Unit and a Balloting Unit – joined by a five-meter cable.
  • The Control Unit is with the Presiding Officer or a Polling Officer and the Balloting Unit is placed inside the voting compartment. Instead of issuing a ballot paper, the Polling Officer in-charge of the Control Unit will press the Ballot Button. This will enable the voter to cast his vote by pressing the blue button on the Balloting Unit against the candidate and symbol of his choice.
  • EVMs can cater to a maximum of 64 candidates. There is provision for 16 candidates in a Balloting Unit. If the total number of candidates exceeds 16, a second Balloting Unit can be linked parallel to the first Balloting Unit.
  • Similarly, if the total number of candidates exceeds 32, a third Balloting Unit can be attached and if the total number of candidates exceeds 48, a fourth Balloting Unit can be attached to cater to a maximum of 64 candidates.

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