Here's how voters can verify their ballots during the world's largest democratic exercise

Here's how voters can verify their ballots during the world's largest democratic exercise
A demonstration of Electronic Voting Machines and Voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) underway during an all party meeting called by Election Commission in New Delhi IANS

  • The verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) will be making its national debut at the upcoming general elections in India.
  • The VVPAT system was introduced after the Delhi High Court ruled in 2012 that electronic voting machines (EVMs) are not completely tamper-proof.
  • The EVMs have also been upgraded for the 2019 general elections to the 'M3' third generation models.
While electronic voting machines (EVMs) were introduced to the Indian electoral process in 1989, the verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) will make its debut during the general elections this year.

The idea is simple — in order to improve upon the transparency during the voting process, using the VVPAT will allow users to verify that their vote was cast as intended.

The new method of vote verification was brought into play after the Delhi High Court ruled in 2012 that EVMs are not "tamper-proof." And, even though the court did not direct the Election Commission (EC) to incorporate a paper trail to record the votes, it did suggest that some mechanism should be put in place in order to put doubts to rest.
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And then in 2013, came the Supreme Court verdict that the EC should employ the VVPAT system so that there would be a way to audit the electronic results.

How does VVPAT work?


Before casting their ballot, voters should check the LED power light on the EVM is green. That means the machine is not busy and ready to record the vote.

It's once you've cast your vote, there should a 'beep' to confirm that the vote has been recorded by the machine.

The VVPAT will then provide visual verification by printing the serial number, name and party symbol of the candidate that was voted for along with the serial number of the VVPAT unit and the poll session number on a receipt.

The display window where the information will appear is sealed, so voters can't physically touch the receipt. And normally, when the machine is not in use, the items behind the window aren't visible and the window appears black.

So, it's only when a vote is cast on the EVM, that the light within the viewing window comes on, but only for seven seconds. In that time frame, voters will have to verify that the details are correct before the slip gets cut and falls into the a seal drop box within the VVPAT.

According to the EC, the VVPAT can only be attached to the EVM — in fact, it only has the one port — in order to register votes. Since the print runs on a battery pack, like the EVM, it's not dependent on electricity to operate.

Even the EVMs are being upgraded to a third generation 'M3' machines, which are said to be tamper proof and have a self-diagnostic system to authenticate whether a machine is genuine or not, according to the EC.

"Each EVM can record a button being pressed only after every 12 seconds. If buttons are pressed more often, the EVM will not record any vote. In any 'booth capture' situation, it would take nearly three and a half hours to press the buttons 1,000 times (the typical number of votes for any EVM) and even that assumes the buttons would be pressed rapidly, every 12 seconds exactly. EVMs are simply not a feasible or efficient way to carry out electoral fraud," veteran psephologists Prannoy Roy and Dorab Sopariwala wrote in their book 'The Verdict', released on March 15.

Mock polls are conducted to ensure that the machines are in optimal working condition and the machines are alloted to the polling booths through an elaborate randomization process so that nobody knows which machine will be at which polling booth until the very last moment.

The introduction of the VVPAT system should, ideally, serve as a reassurance for those who fear EVM tampering by political parties.

Even though the EC maintains that the EVMs can't be "tinkered" with in any way, there were allegations during the Uttar Pradesh bypolls in May 2018 where voters and some candidates claimed that no matter which button was pressed on the machine, the EVM registered the vote in favour of the BJP.

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